Friday, September 16, 2016

goals from a non-goal setter


Truth: It's been so long since I posted a photo on my blog, I had to think about how. Another truth: When I saw my friend Bre post these free stock photos for bloggers, I knew I wanted to write about the goals I've been working on. Seeing that Steph and Sara are hosting a goals link-up sealed the deal.

I'm not a goal-oriented person. I like to do what needs to be done and do it well, but looking to the future isn't my forte. Perhaps I fear failure, so if I never plan to accomplish anything, I never let anyone down. It isn't ideal. I've been thinking a lot about hard work, doing things that benefit me, and the payoff that comes from working hard, or at least consistently, toward something. I felt like I needed to make some goals for myself, simply for the satisfaction of getting things done, the same way I'll make myself a checklist of things to do at work just for the simple joy of crossing them off. So, here are some goals from a self-proclaimed non-goal setter. They've been in my head for about a month and will definitely take me through the fall and beyond.

1) #tenfortieks: Yup, it's something I have never tweeted about but in my head, it's a hashtag. I wear ballet flats to work daily and cheap ones just aren't cutting it anymore. I've seen Tieks before on bloggers, but it wasn't until I saw two coworkers with pairs that I got really interested in them. I was able to ask real people if they were worth the steep price tag (they start at $175!) and actually comfortable and I got a resounding yes. So, I decided I needed to have them, but I need to earn them. Enter Ten for Tieks (#tenfortieks). I need to lose 10 lbs and if I do, I get myself some shoes. It's been a good way to motivate myself to get up at 5 a.m. and go to the gym, take walks at lunch, do less mindless or emotional snacking, and think about the money I save every time I don't give in to junk. I've lost about 6 lbs in six weeks - I'm not doing anything crazy - but I think the mindfulness I'm gaining will make the process worth it.

2) Use My Planner: I have a $10 planner from Target with an unconventional set-up that totally works for me (post to come, possibly). I like to use it to keep up with all the things I want to do, from podcasts to listen to, new TV shows to watch, cleaning chores to do that night or in the future, how much I worked out, and things like that. I also try to document a little thing I did each day in it, from trivia nights to lunches with friends or binge watching a TV show (yup, there's a Stranger Things day). I like that it helps me see where I spend some of my time and helps me remember things I'm bound to forget.

3) Dress more like an adult: The aforementioned daily ballet flats are usually accompanied by pants, a top, and a cardigan. There's a reason I'm not a fashion blogger. But, I have noticed when I wear heels or a dress or have my nails painted I feel... better. Older. Like I'm playing the role of Real Adult Professional and have my life together. It's a nice feeling. Not for every day, but I have been trying to keep it in mind as I create a fall wardrobe. I want to buy a blazer, but they always make me feel like an extra in an 80s movie, but surely there are some without shoulder pads, right? And, I've been painting my nails more which is so easy that I wonder why I don't do it more often.

I have other, smaller life things I'm working on, too. Write more, start Christmas shopping, be a more supportive friend, use my time more wisely, and try new things. It's a lot. But it's nice to have a focus. Maybe I can become a goals person after all. Does that count as another goal?

Life According to Steph
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

seriously good reads

I feel like this was my best book reading month of 2016 yet. So far this year, I think I've only rated one book 5 stars; this month, there are three 5s and one 4.5. Though there were two books that weren't for me, the books I liked, I really liked. Let's get to it.

The Underground Railroad - This book was part what I was expecting, and part not. Maybe the acclaim and putting Oprah's name on the cover made my expectations too high, but overall, I just didn't care about this book or its narrator at all. Stop reading if you mind mild spoilers - okay seriously, what was the point of making something surreal about the Underground Railroad? It was a book so deeply rooted in reality that making the railroad an actual railroad was jarring and unnecessary and downright confusing. (2.5 stars)

The Woman in Cabin 10 - This was the right book at the right time. I wanted something with more action and intrigue after The Underground Railroad, and this delivered. It isn't the best book ever, and it shouldn't be the next Gone Girl or anything like that, but the plot kept me guessing and the narrator's anxiety spilled over into me so much that I had to stop reading so close to bedtime. I was excited to discuss it as soon as I finished it - I just really liked it. I definitely recommend this one if you want a solid story that will keep you interested. (5 stars)

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - I don't have much to add to this that Steph and Jana haven't already said. If you're the least bit interested, just read it. It's the Cliff's Notes of an awesome woman's life with insight into her nontraditional (for its time) marriage and all of the glass ceilings she broke through to become the second female US Supreme Court Justice. I love RBG and her principle that "We the People" means everyone and her constant work toward equality. My only complaint is that there is SO much stuff in the back of the book - an index, a glossary, footnotes, etc. - that if you're reading a digital copy, you'll be at like 68% when the book ends. I was really bummed because I wanted more. Also, can we talk about how I got to breathe her air and be in the same room with her a few years ago? (5 stars)

Girls on Fire - I had two days to read this before it went back to the library, so I committed myself to it on Labor Day. By the time I realized I really didn't like it, I was too far invested to quit, so I pushed through. I basically hated this. Stupid teenagers doing dumb things with zero payoff and being awful for the sake of being awful. I'm not sure who this is for. I should have put it down. (2 stars, and that feels generous)

The Sea of Tranquility - I saw this book on everyone's list last year and my library kept adding it to the digital collection and then taking it away. I didn't really know much about it, and I was bummed when I saw it was YA since I had just finished Girls on Fire. However, this is a far different book. I like the way the story unfolded and it was one that I wanted to read at every spare second. I didn't mind the changing viewpoints and the characters' actions mostly made sense. I liked the teen love story, though it was ridiculously farfetched. My only gripe is that in some moments, the characters were wise far beyond their years whereas in others, they seemed closer to 13 than 18. Nonetheless, it was a good YA story and none of the kids had cancer, which is always a nice change. (5 stars)

(A) One True Loves - Good ole Taylor Jenkins Reid. If you haven't read any of her books yet, do it now. I have listened to all of them, I think, and they're really enjoyable. Sure, the women nearly always make choices that I completely disagree with and just plain don't get, but TJR explains where they're coming from and how they make sense for that person. I liked the premise of this book - a woman's husband is presumed dead so she moves on, gets engaged to someone else, and then her husband comes back - and it definitely had me wondering what I would do in a similar situation. I think what I really like about these books is that the author always tosses in little details about the character's thoughts or the setting that sit with the reader and make the books feel more real and relatable. (4.5 stars)

It's going to be hard to top that many good books but I'm excited to try! Looking forward to finding new recs from Steph, Jana, and everyone else who links up.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

riding shotgun to chasing dreams

If you have asked me what's new lately, my answer has invariably involved barbecue. And that seems unfair. You're asking what's new with me, not what's new with my husband. But, it seems that no matter how independent a person thinks they are, the interests of one half of a couple tend to color the other. Especially if that interest is a love of barbecue turned into a burgeoning business.

So what's new with me is Doubleback BBQ. I know that it's actually what's new with Andrew; I'm just along for the ride. But it absolutely affects me - our house is its unofficial home, its wares are tested in my kitchen, and all of the time that a new business baby takes comes from time spent with my husband, or spent sleeping, or the time we used to spend doing anything besides eating and thinking about smoked meat. And I only feel okay about it.

I've never been good with dreams or goals. As a kid, I knew I wanted to get married and go to college. I've done that. I still wonder what I want to BE when I grow up, beyond simply "happy." So while I get dreams and hard work in theory, it's hard for me to understand all of the work that's now going into Doubleback. It's hard for me to grasp that even though he's beyond tired, staying up all night smoking a brisket is kind of fun for my husband. It's hard for me to give up weekends "to cook" since I know that Friday is spent prepping, Saturday is for serving, and on Sunday, we recover and try to cram a weekend's worth of activity into a few waking hours. And it's hard for me to comprehend that a willingness to clean a kitchen spattered with meat juices is now viewed as a sign of love and support when I do it with minimal grumbling. It's a hobby and a dream that might one day be a career but right now seems like a never-ending sink of dishes, a garage full of wood, and a to-do list that's never quite done.

I guess my thing is - and maybe you can help me out - how do I fit myself in the picture? How do you wholeheartedly support a dream that is not your own without resenting it? Resentment hasn't taken residence here yet - this is still new and exciting - but I worry about it. I think about the money we've spent, the vacation days used, and the sacrifices that could be in an attempt to run a successful barbecue endeavor (I feel like I should mention here that Andrew does have a business partner who is also married, and it's awesome to have someone who understands, though we really haven't elaborated on how we feel - yet). I remember how dry my hands get after doing dishes for what feels like days and how weekends used to be for antique malls and netflix bingeing and sometimes I just don't want to deal with meat, or packing the car full of supplies, or my event planning brain that refuses to shut off and constantly asks the guys if they're sure they have enough forks/foil/tablecloths, etc. But how do you shut down a dream?

The answer, for me, right now, is that you don't. You help your husband (mostly) when he asks you, but you draw the line and escape to Target when you need to. You learn to keep quiet (which is SO HARD) about business matters that don't concern you because, both literally and figuratively, it isn't your business. You plan "special days" for no reason where there is no BBQ talk and little BBQ texting to said business partner. You get your nails done because you deserve it. You understand that your weekends are subject to smoking meat, tasting BBQ, or prepping for anything in that realm for the near future. You give your best advice, encouragement, patience, and understanding. And you learn to be okay, at least for now, with answering a question like "what's new with you?" with an answer that isn't entirely your own because you have faith that this dream is worth it.

Linking up with Kristen and Gretch because when I write an actual post, I want some people to see it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

summer books

I totally skipped the last Show Us Your Books so I have some definite catching up to do. Here's what I've been reading:

The Nest: I've seen this book on a million lists and found it completely forgettable. The characters are alright, but not a lot happens and I didn't care about any of them. It was too many characters spread too thin without much to keep them together. I don't get why it's such a big thing. Steph and Jana nailed it when they discussed it on The Armchair Librarians so listen to that and know that I completely agree.

(A) LaRose: Another book where nothing happened. The premise was fascinating. The book takes place in 1999 - so, not in ancient times - and a Native American man accidentally kills a young boy, so to atone for his mistake, he offers his son, who is the same age. The story follows the son, LaRose, and both families. While the central conflict affects everyone, I just couldn't wrap my head around this as a plausible solution and there wasn't an obvious course of action going on that let me forget it. The prose in parts is very beautiful, but I couldn't wait for this to be over.

(I blame these for putting me in a book slump. It took a while for me to want to pick up something new!)

Side Effects May Vary: This book was better, but still didn't help my slump. It's by the same author as Dumplin' but just isn't as good. The main character was mean for no real reason and for me, the teen angst in this one was too much for adult me to want to get into. If teenagers could learn to communicate more, would YA even be a genre?

(A) Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything: This book was perfect for me since I have been in such a TV watching mood. The author basically interviewed anyone she could find who knew anything about the history behind and the making of Seinfeld and put their anecdotes and opinions in this book. If you're a Seinfeld fan, you'll definitely enjoy this and learn something. For example, Larry David wanted the show to be cemented in real life as much as possible. Since the show was so fast-paced, most of the writers used their best material in one season of work so nearly every season, the entire writing staff was turned over. Stuff like that. It's really dense and you definitely want a background in the show to appreciate it, but I found myself constantly sharing what I learned with Andrew. It was a fun read.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman: You guys, this book. I loved it. I learned about Lindy West through This American Life (she's the woman who confronted her internet troll and the one who wants to be called fat, both of which are detailed in the book) so I was excited to read her story. She's an unapologetic feminist and a writer. She talks about how her body image has affected how she is and how she receives love, what it's like to have such a public job when you aren't society's definition of beautiful, and tells stories about how she has stood up for herself and other women (most notably, by calling out stand-up comedians for making jokes about rape). I want to be her friend and learn from her. The book is more essays than memoir, but it's very cohesive and tells a lot about her experiences. I liked it so much I want to buy it - my highest level of praise.

Listen To Me: I read books because I want a good story. I like things to happen. I don't like to notice tone shifts and draw a ton of conclusions when I'm reading a novel. At face value, this book was boring (again, nothing happened. I have awful taste this month). After reading reviews on Goodreads, though, I see that people far more intellectual than I got a lot more from this book than I did. Does that change my personal opinion? No. But at least I kind of get it now.

Black-Eyed Susans: Several months ago, I told Steph I needed a book to completely suck me in and she suggested this one. It was a good pick. I liked the way it was told, alternating present day with flashbacks. I liked the Texas setting, too. It was one I didn't want to put down to go to sleep at night. I didn't like the too-obvious red herring, though, and that the mystery was revealed at the very end with very little wrap-up as to how the characters dealt with the aftermath, but overall, I definitely recommend it.

I'm currently listening to a Taylor Jenkins Reid book and about to start reading a new book (probably Modern Lovers by Emma Straub). But, between the Olympics and starting to watch Veronica Mars (so good!), it's hard to find time for anything else...


Life According to Steph

Thursday, August 4, 2016

the summer of...

For me, summer ends next week. I work at a school and students are back. I can't wear jeans anymore, and traffic will pick up.  The past three months were over before they started.

It was the summer of...

- Starbucks. I've stayed away from them for the better part of two years in favor of buying local but the convenience of mobile ordering and the sweet cream vanilla cold brew have made them at least a weekly indulgence.

- TV and podcasts instead of books. Maybe one day I'll write about my second experience at the ATX TV Festival, but not today. Let's say that it  made me want to watch more TV than I have in a long time, and it was time well spent. And I talked about podcasts last week. (I spent a lot of time on Orange is the New Black and what happened this season? Why so many characters with storylines that just weren't expanded upon enough?)

- Trying to figure it out. What do I love? What makes me happy? Where do I see myself in x years? I have never been good with goals or long term planning, and I tried to change that. I didn't get very far. How does one plan when one can't figure out what they want from life, let alone how to get it?

- BBQ Wife Life. If you follow me on snapchat, then you know all about Andrew and his friends and the early stages of their BBQ business. Doubleback BBQ is becoming an actual thing, and I couldn't be more proud. Except when I am sweaty and attending the pop-ups or cleaning up before or after they cook. At those points, I wish his passion was a little less messy...  but I'm still excited about his success.

- In-laws. Due to my sister-in-law's wedding in Atlanta and some other things, I have spent more time with my in-laws this summer than ever before, and it was all good. Something about weddings brings me out of my shell and makes me a total embarrassment on the dancefloor. Plus, I got to spend more time with my SIL than ever before and I feel like I got to know her as her, and not jut as Andrew's Older Sister, if that makes sense.

- Trivia. We discovered Geeks Who Drink trivia and it's so fun. And we're pretty good at it. It's a fun way to break up the week.

- Giving advice (both solicited and not), becoming the in-house interior designer for my office (a post I'm definitely NOT qualified for), realizing that I lucked into some pretty great friends, trying to stay politically informed. attempting to stay cool, and trying to find more hours in the day. I can't believe my summer is nearly over.


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