Thursday, January 12, 2017

thinking about the year

As usual, I'm late to the party. No really, if you know me in real life, then I do tend to run late, unless my husband is invited and then I'll be early. But it comes as no surprise that it's taken me this long to really reflect on the past year and the future.

For me personally, 2016 was... just a year. We made our house more adult and then moved in 2014. I got promoted and we adjusted to our new home in 2015. And then in 2016... well, it was just a year. I mean it was the year that my husband started Doubleback BBQ but that's for him to reflect on, not me.

I started to feel kind of bummed about 2016. 365 days and so little to show for it. Thank goodness for my friend Bre and her post about how Elizabeth Gilbert said that people are not like corporations. She says that we're humans and we don't have to improve over last year. Sometimes we try things that don't work and sometimes, we don't produce anything new at all and that's just how life works. And I started to feel some contentment. 2016 was my year to be supportive and to try to learn to cook and to care more about politics and the world. It was the year of making goals and realizing I still don't like them, of trying to be a more thoughtful friend, and of finally feeling like maturity is a thing that can be learned, or at the very least noted when we start to realize we're getting some measure of it.

But, that said, I don't want 2017 to pass me by. My newfound maturity is making me realize that these are some of my best years; old enough to know better, but not old enough to feel stuck. I'm not into a word of the year and we've established that a list of goals doesn't fulfill me, but an idea to stick to and to measure my progress against sounds wholly appealing.

I just want to work to do things that Future Lauren will be happy about.

I admit, it's one of those weird things you see on pinterest that often pertains to fitness. But I'm thinking of me as a person. Is Future Lauren ever going to care about Buzzfeed lists, who in Hollywood is dating whom, or endless selfies of someone I knew in high school? Not likely. So I should spend less time scrolling through those things on my phone. Future Lauren will thank me for doing the dishes tonight even though I want to sit on the couch. She'll thank me for taking thirty seconds to clean up a mess instead of letting it pile up, or having an easy meal in the freezer to heat up when no one wants to cook. Future Lauren will be glad she read those books and listened to those podcasts so she has ideas and opinions and things to discuss outside of her sliver of the world. She will love reading blog posts she wrote to document the mundane because time really does fly by and who can remember all of the details that make up a life? So I'm going to try hard to make my future self happy. Do a few squats while I brush my teeth, take a second to text a friend so that those relationships last, save a few bucks where I can, and try to consciously act in a way that will make me proud to be me. I have a tendency to get caught up in moments, both good and bad, and react so full of adrenaline that I can't fully remember what I said or did. I want to work harder to really be in each moment and not already mentally on to the next thing. I think my future self will appreciate the memories.

I feel like talking about 2017 without talking about the U.S. in 2017 is ignoring the huge elephant in the room. The state of our government has me all kinds of uncomfortable and I'm worried. I want to know things, but not be so inundated by it that I have to bury my head in the sand. I want to have informed opinions for myself if nothing else and stop enclosing myself in a space where everyone agrees with me simply because it's more comfortable. I still want to be wrong about the President-Elect, but two months later, things aren't looking so good.

So - cheers to the new year, twelve days in. I'm off to make good on my promise and put the electronics down in favor of a book. Future Lauren promises to tell you all about it.

Linking up with Kristin and Joey for Stuff and Things.

Monday, January 2, 2017

whatcha been doing?

I was responding to blog comments from last week's Show Us Your Books and wanted to send the same message to nearly everyone who I missed, who I normally talk to via blog at least few times a week but haven't "talked" to in weeks or more because I've been a slacker. Because work was busy and reading on my phone was the only option, because forming a coherent thought seemed like a lot of effort, and because as is my every-so-often custom, I felt that leaving a comment was unnecessary and whatever I had to say wouldn't be missed (note to self, you have been at this blogging thing for a long time and you have only thought that a comment was ridiculously unnecessary like twice, and those were spam, so shut up). But responding to comments takes long enough so I kept it to book talk but really, here is what I wanted to say.

Hi! How are you? I miss you/your blog/checking in with you. Did you have a good fall and Christmas? Mine were both busy. Andrew's family came to town and we hosted Thanksgiving. It was the best menu ever, since we planned it and it was all things we wanted to eat - not a canned cranberry in sight! - but I was left washing sheets and dishes for days after. It isn't something I want to do annually, but every few years would be great. I always have lofty goals of finishing my Christmas shopping by December 1st and it never happens. I'm always stressed out at the last minute, I always worry that I didn't do enough, and I wait until the last minute to wrap everything. That on top of it being my busiest season at work (graduation, donor dinner, employee party, etc.), a last minute Doubleback BBQ pop-up, and just life in general left me feeling out of breath at nearly every turn. Once again, I wasn't really able to enjoy the Christmas season. I say every year will be different. Maybe it will really happen in 2017.

One really fun thing was that we were in town for Christmas and hosted my mom, step-dad, step-sister, and nieces. I don't think we have ever had Christmas together since they normally travel to see my step-family in Louisiana on Christmas day. My youngest niece is eight and no longer believes in Santa, but her opening up her Furby and raising it above her head like a wrestler winning one of those hideous belts almost made up for losing that bit of magic. We decorated ugly sweater Christmas cookies and watched Home Alone. There's nothing like kids to make you realize how fast time flies.

I was very spoiled at Christmas this year and got a coffee maker (bye bye, French press dependency) and the robot vacuum that Stephanie recommended. We aren't BFFs yet - I think my house has too much stuff - but I'm working on a way to make it (I named it Rosie, after the maid on The Jetsons) work for me. I got some fun stuff, too, like lots of necklaces and an Amazon Echo so it wasn't all adulty. We stayed home voluntarily on New Year's Eve and treating it like any other day and adding fancy champagne made it seem less lame. Did you get any gifts I need to know about? How did you spend new year's eve?

Hmmm, what else? I went to a bar that was almost a club for the first time in years for a friend's birthday and decided to dominate karaoke when Ashlee Simpson came on (why?), started and stopped yoga (still undecided on it...), and attended my first trampoline fitness class. I didn't make any new year's resolutions, but my fall goals all still need to be at the top of my mind; I didn't do very well on any of them. What are some of yours?

My house is happy that the Giants are in the playoffs. I'm dreading taking down all of my Christmas decorating and I'll miss the coziness that the lights add every year. I started watching American Crime and The Man in the High Castle and both seem fine but not amazing - I need a show! My reading mojo is coming back. The time I get off from work at the holidays went way too fast, as it always does. How is it 2017?

Bauer and the tree | One of our Thanksgiving tables | Our Christmas card pic taken in Charleston (I sent cards to people whose addresses I had at the time and made better notes for next year...) | the whole collection of ugly sweater cookies | Cat Bauer as the Grinch. There will never be a more accurate costume for him.

Okay so maybe my notes to everyone wouldn't have been quiiiite that focused on me, but I definitely want to ask all of those questions of you. Blogging is getting harder for me the more I overthink it (are you sensing a pattern here?) so I tend to grab the laptop, log in to Blogger, stare at the screen, and decide no one cares. A lot of this is on twitter or instagram already, but not everyone checks all the things so sorry not sorry for repeats. I want to get back in the swing of the oversharing and talking about everything and nothing on the internet. So, here's a step in that direction.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

my favorite books of 2016

I'm terrible at retaining books. Thank goodness for Goodreads and rating systems. Here are the books that stayed with me in 2016 and a little bit about why.

Books You've Probably Already Read
The Royal We - it's fun to think about what it would be like to date and marry a prince!
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry - I put this book off because I found the title and description boring,  but it's a great story. Read it if you haven't already.

Nonfiction Worth Your Time
Seinfeldia - tons of tidbits about how the show was made, received, and behind the scenes stories. Read it if you're a fan.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman - This book is important. From fat shaming to abortion to internet trolls, Lindy West covers how all kinds of issues have impacted her life with humor and truth. I don't like buying books but I asked for this one because I want to reread it and pass it around.

Stories That Stayed With Me
The Girl You Left Behind - I liked the intertwined stories and thought of the characters after I finished the book.
All This Life - Another book with intertwined stories. It shows how a single event can shape us and social media can connect us.
Indiscretion - The narration is different than many other books. The cover makes it look like a romance novel, but it isn't. There's a storytelling device used that I will never, ever forget.

That's the quick version since I've already talked about these in more detail. I never found a book that I loved and recommended to everyone this year, so I'm hoping to get some recommendations today. Linking up with Steph and Jana as usual!

Monday, December 26, 2016

books for the end of 2016

We went on vacation in October and in the weeks leading up to it, I didn't want to read. Then there was vacation and the ridiculousness known as the election and I just lost my reading mojo and read articles and listened to podcasts for most of the rest of the year. But, I do want to document the last few books I read in 2016, mostly just for me.

I'm Glad About You - This book basically told the story of the one that got away. A couple spent their teen and college years together only to break up and the book follows his life as a doctor with a perfect wife and hers as a TV actress and the way their relationship with one another continues to affect their lives. I loved the origin of the title - basically there's a Native American way to say I love you that translates to "I'm glad about you," as in I'm grateful that you have been in my life. This wasn't a must read, but it was interesting to get into the minds of two seemingly perfect people. I just wish it had delved deeper.

(A) Indiscretion - I saw this book described as Gatsby-esque since it's about a perfect couple and their life but told from the point of view of the wife's best friend since childhood, a man who is admittedly in love with her. I think it would probably be a good beach read since it's set in The Hamptons (or a town like it) and many of the characters are wealthy. Some of the narration goes on unnecessary tangents, and there are a few 50 Shades sections, but the payoff is a twist that happens near the end. I don't even know if I could call it a twist, but it was a decision the author made that made me unable to get the book out of my head for several days after finishing it. It may not be my favorite book ever, but I liked it because it was so different from anything I've read lately. I really want more people to read it because I want to talk about it.

Swear On This Life - I remember bloggers going crazy for this, so after two months of not reading anything, when it was my time for it at the library, I thought I would be silly to let it go. I read it in one sitting. I felt that the book-within-a-book needed stronger writing since it took up so much of the story, and some of it was way too drawn out, but it was interesting enough for me to stay up late to finish. It's more of a 3.5 for me because I could see the end coming, but I was interested to see the path the author took.

This took me to 54 books finished in 2016 - not too bad, and my goal was 50. I read 70 last year, but I think finding so many podcasts that I love affected how much I read this year. I'm excited to read about everyone else's favorites of 2016 to get my reading list going - favorites of the year post to come!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

thursday things

So many things in my head, so little time to write them out coherently.

- I'm in a book slump. I think the vacation/election/daylight savings triple whammy have just made it hard for me to get lost in a good story. I haven't read or listened to a book since mid-October. I have Commonwealth checked out from the library - is it any good?

- The Gilmore Girls revival is next week. I admit, I have a bit of Gilmore fatigue. It went from being a show that was shared among a select group of diehards who were glued to the CW in the early 2000s to being this phenomenon that everyone knows and not to be too much of a hipster, but it was more fun when the fanbase was smaller. I should be happy that something so great has been shared with the masses but honestly, I feel a little Gilmore-d out. That said, if anyone ruins Seasons for me, I'll cut you.

- The election, you guys. I keep trying to inform myself from different sources, read more, and form my own opinions based on more than articles that are shared on Facebook (because didn't you hear? They're mostly fake). I signed up for a washingtonpost.com digital account (free with my .edu email address!) and actually try to read articles that interest me, or those that sound slanted, or things with which I feel like I don't agree. Maybe it's confirmation bias, but doing these things still has be deeply concerned about the next four years.

- Onto lighter things: the show Search Party starts on Monday on TBS. Andrew and I went to a screening for the pilot when we went to the ATX TV Festival over the summer and both really, really liked it. It kind of had the self-aware tone of Girls with less sex and more of a plot. They're playing the entire series in a row so you can set your DVR and binge at will.

- Everything that I want to post about in bullet point form (like the amazing Adele concert and finding a new, hidden coffee shop) I've posted about on Instagram lately so here's a reminder to follow me there if you don't already. How do you feel about Instagram stories? Not gonna lie, I love seeing who has viewed mine yet never ever seems to like any of my photos.

- I'm trying to "like" more lately. Like more instagram posts, more tweets, more cute photos of people's kids or pets on Facebook. Those damn digital hearts shouldn't have meaning, but isn't it sometimes nice to get a little acknowledgement? On a blogging note, I've been reading a lot and commenting less. Time to spread that liking over to this area a whole lot more (and, um, maybe respond to comments from weeks ago? Eeek.).

- Thanksgiving. For the first time in over ten years, Andrew and I are hosting. It's his family, which is thankfully much, much smaller than mine and there will only be 11 of us, total. And, my brother-in-law went to culinary school so Andrew has a sous chef far more skilled than I am. And we'll spend Black Friday eating BBQ because of course we will. At least he isn't cooking that, too.

Why is it that I always think I have so much to blog about but by the time I sit down to put thoughts into words, my mind is blank? Tell me I'm not alone. Also, John Mayer has new music out today and since much of my musical taste is held over from 2003, I'm pumped. Linking up with Kristin and Joey for Stuff and Things.