Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sitting With It....

On January 9th, my Dad suffered another seizure and unlike the last time, recovery is not happening, and today, we received the news that it is time to begin the process of letting go.  It hit me today, HARD, that my Dad will not be here much longer.

Deep Breath, Melissa....
My emotions were all over the place this morning, so I decided to sit with them today and not put them off or shove them down.

 Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times" is one of my all time favorite books and I go to it often when I am having a hard time and today I almost immediate found this passage.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy"

Today, I let room in for grief.  I sat with it.  I acknowledged it.  I cried.  I laughed at memories when friends called and I talked.  I felt the heaviness of it on my body and mind.  I shared the information that I had held close to my heart because sharing it would make it all to real.  I have even let the anger be.....

Today, I let it be real,

and in letting be real, I have found some truths that will never be broken.

My last phone call with my Dad, the day before he went back into the hospital, was beautiful and left nothing unsaid.

The last time I saw him in person, it was an amazing visit full of long conversations and ended with a long hug.

I am so incredibly grateful for my brother, sister in law, niece, cousin, my dad's wife, and all the others who live in Georgia who have been there in person day in and day out during his illness.

I know that I am in a process and can not take every day to just 'sit with it', but I needed it today and came up with some things to do everyday to acknowledge whatever I am feeling.....

And lastly, I am so incredibly grateful for your love, support, and acknowledgement of how hard this is.  I am beyond words in awe of you.


Sunday, January 18, 2015


I have been working on my New Year's Resolution of completing the 2015 Reading Challenge and decided to take on #18 which  asked me to read a Pulitzer Prize winner.  I chose the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt.

It was not a wise decision.

A bit of a warning, if you are a fan of Donna Tartt or 'The Goldfinch', run away.  This is not going to be pretty.

I got the book on my Kindle from the library and started.

I read for hours and only got 20% complete and I'm a pretty fast reader.
My first foray into finding information began and it turns out this book is 775 pages long.  Great, I already have a 500 page adventure on my list, and now I had another one on my hands.

For those first couple of hours, my thoughts were I knew this book was a work of fiction, but some facts have to be acknowledged.  A lesson in physics, explosions, and just general architecture would of been helpful, because a major portion of the 'plot' I COULD NOT BUY because it was sooooooooooooooo inconceivable.

I chugged along for a couple of days and got to 50% complete.
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah is the only way I can describe this novel.
Where was her editor?  Was there a red pen shortage that made her editor call in sick?  There was A LOT of useless information, characters, drug use, incidents, etc. that bogged down the novel and hid information you needed.  Do not get me wrong, there are glimmers of an amazing writer buried in the 775 pages. There are amazingly crafted sentences so pure and full of emotion, I would stop and just absorb them and made me even more frustrated with the rest of the novel.  The problem is this, they are so few and far between.

I went to a party during this time and a lot of my friends who read were there and I mentioned that I was reading 'The Goldfinch' but didn't mention the author.  I said that I could decide if I was going to like the book by the end or struggle to even finish it because it drove me that crazy.....and a friend immediately said, "It must be written by Donna Tartt!"  She had stopped reading another novel by her 50 pages before the end, because she could not take another word.  50 pages...from the end.  

A discussion began about books that people either LOVELOVELOVE or ABSOLUTELY CANNOT STAND with no middle ground.  You either love it or hate it....  Donna Tartt's books lead this list.

I went on Goodreads, a great book site, and did something I rarely do while reading a book, I read reader reviews and they were either "This is the best book ever!" or "How did this win?".  I was feeling like I was going to be in the second category....

I continued onward,
or I should say, I procrastinated until my phone, computer and anything else was exhausted, then I would read.

Me, the person who normally looks forward to reading was avoiding it.  Sad day....

I plugged onward and finished....
I read my Pulitzer Prize winning book and really, really did not like it.  I  picked one that did not mesh with me, but I still have faith in the Pulitzer Prize because some of my all time favorite books are winners. 
I still think this 2015 Reading Challenge is a good idea, even though #18 was a disaster.  

Oh well,
onto the next book.......


PS, Thank you for all of your ideas for books on the numbers I did not have a book for!  :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What? How? I'm confused....

I am asking you to bear with me on this one....
for my Money Savings Challenge resolution I once again went to Pinterest and got an idea, but I kept reading reviews that it had some flaws, so I decided to tweak it.

It's the 52 week Savings Challenge where the original plan is to put $1 in week one, $2 in week two, $3 in week three, and so on and so on......culminating with $52 in week 52.  With a Grand Total of $1378.00.

You do not have to be a math whiz to figure out that in the month of December, you are going to be putting just about $200 in savings.  

The success rate for this did not seem that high......

But I liked the idea of putting money away every week, so I thought about my options.

Option #1.  Save $26 week and still end up with $1352.00
Option #2.  Save every week, but have a low month, then have a high month and end up with $1378.00 and maybe a little more

I'm choosing option 2....and it will look like this...

Week 1 $1                                       Week  18  $10                             Week 36   $20
          2 $2                                                  19  $11                                       37  $36
          3 $3                                                  20  $12                                       38  $35
          4 $4                                                  21  $44                                        39  $34
          5 $52                                                22  $43                                        40  $33
          6 $51                                                23 $42                                        41  $21
          7 $50                                                24  $41                                       42  $22
          8 $49                                                25  $13                                       43  $23
          9 $5                                                  26  $14                                       44  $24
        10 $6                                                  27  $15                                       45  $32
        11 $7                                                  28  $16                                       46  $31
        12 $8                                                  29  $40                                       47  $30
        13 $48                                                30  $39                                       48  $29
        14 $47                                                31  $38                                       49  $25
        15 $46                                                32  $37                                       50  $26
        16 $45                                                33  $17                                       51  $27
        17  $9                                                 34  $18                                       52  $28
                                                                   35  $19

I promise there is a logic to this....
On odd numbered months, you build... 1,2, 3,4....
And on even numbered months it decreases 52, 51, 50, 49,.....

It ends up with some very easy months and a couple of heavy saving months, but they are spread out. 

I hope to add extra on the light months and actually be ahead at the end of the year.

I also wanted to challenge myself on those $200 months and see if it is realistic in addition to my other savings that I do.

The plan for this money...
If everything stays on track and I do as planned financially this year, I will take half and add it to my Emergency fund and the other half will go towards travel/season tickets/fun for 2016. 

Save on...

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge...(Updated)

Yes, I found this on Pinterest and no, I am not ashamed of that.....
So without further ado, here is the list and my planned book for each item.

1.  A book with more than 500 pages.
              Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

2.  A classic romance.
              Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

3.  A book that became a movie.
              In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Phillbrick

4.  A book published in 2015
            The Season of Migration by Nellie Hermann

5.  A book with a number in the title.
             Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

6.  A book written by someone under 30.
             Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

7.  A book with nonhuman characters.
             Fluke by James Herbert

8.  A funny book.
             Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

9.  A book by a female author. 
             First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

10.  A mystery or thriller
              The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

11.  A book with a one-word title.
               Motherlunge by Kirstin Scott

12.  A book of short stories.
              The Turning by Tim Winton  (updated...)

13.  A book set in a different country.
              (France)  Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda

14.  A nonfiction novel. 
               A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon

15.  A popular author's first book.
               Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts

16.  A book from an author you love that your haven't read.
                Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich

17.   A book a friend recommended.
                 Walking Home: A Poet's Journey by Simon Armitage

18.  A Pulitzer Prize winning book.
                  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

19.  A book based on a true story.
                  Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

20.  A book at the bottom of your to-read list
               Middlemarch by George Eliot
     (April 8, 2013 is the date this book was put onto my Goodreads to read list... I was supposed to read it for my book club a while ago and didn't...  YA! It will finally be off my list)

21.  A book your mom loves.
                 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

22.  A book that scare you.
                Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

23.  A book more than 100 years old.
                A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

24.  A book based entirely on its cover.
               The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele
       (I have been told about the book for years and had ordered it and it got lost in the mail for over 3 months, and when I finally opened the package and looked at the cover, I said I need to read this for my challenge....)

25.  A book your were supposed to read in school but didn't.
        (a disclaimer on this one, this was an option in college, and I chose another book)
               The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

26.   A memoir.
                The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

27.  A book you can finish in a day.
      (note, I read really fast, so I just picked a book a random)
                 The Major's Daughter by J.P. Francis

28.  A book with antonyms in the title.
                 Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

29.  A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit.
                  Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy (updated)

30.  A book that came out the year you were born (1971).
                  The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

31.  A book with bad reviews.
                   Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (Updated)
                   found from this list of bad books....
                  (This is a portion of a review on goodreads..."Occasionally offensive not because I am an                Austen purist, but because I'm not an idiot, the book barely escapes being so awful as to not receive even one star."

32.  A trilogy.
                  The third time is the charm right????  The Patrick Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicle's third book will not be published in 2015, so here is my next attempt of a trilogy.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy which includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass

33.  A book from your childhood.
                 Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

34. A book with a love triangle.
                 Embers by Sandor Marai

35.  A book set in the future.
                Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

36.  A book set in high school.
                 I'm on my 3rd option for this book.  The first, I could not find, except for purchase for about $50 since it is out of print.  The second, an new version of the first, was available at my library, but instead of taking place in high school takes place with a 4th grade class...  grrrr... so now,

                Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

37.  A book with a color in the title.
                 White Oleander by Janet Fitch

38.  A book that made you cry.
                 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (updated)
                 Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacy Bess (updated)

39.  A book with magic.
                  The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

40.  A graphic novel.
                  Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

41.  A book by an author you've never read before.
                One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

42.  A book you own but have never read.
              The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

43.  A book that takes place in your hometown.
      ( note, I went with the city where I was born, Willington Quay, Northumberland, England)
               The Fire Eaters by David Almond

44.  A book that was originally written in a different language.
               Night by Elie Wiesel (I am ashamed to say I have never read this)

45.  A book set during Christmas.
              Pelican Road by Howard Bahr (updated)

46.  A book written by an author with your same initials.
               Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell

47.  A play.
              A Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

48.  A banned book. (There are quite a few books on my list that would fit this category)
              The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

49.  A book based on or turned into a TV show.
             About a Boy by Nick Hornby (it's a movie too)

50.  A book you started but never finished.
             Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

And there you go...
yes, it is ambitious, but I believe it is doable.

Some books are ones I've been meaning to read for a long time.
Others are on book lists that you need to read in your life.
One is for my book club.
I even managed to get the latest book by my current favorite author, Sarah Addison Allen.
Quite a few of them break me out of the genres I have been reading.
Plus, I looked for books that I had never read to fill the challenge.

I could not be happier to be attempting this.
In fact, I have already read 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood.  Wow is all will say about it.

Off with my nose in a book,

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Resolutions!

Yep, I'm doing it again....

I have defended them,
I have completed them,
and I have left some incomplete,
but still I resolve.

In 2015,
I make resolutions to....

1.  Celebrate more!!
      People, not just on Birthdays or major events, but on Tuesday just cause...  Events, I said no a lot last year, for no reason.  Saying yes is a positive thing and I want and need more positivity in my life.  So if you ask, and if I can and I am able, I am IN!  And if I can find other ways to celebrate life, I'm going to do it.  This resolution was inspired by a quote I've been seeing a lot lately...
                    Until further notice, Celebrate EVERYTHING!!

2.  Exercise with the intention of Love, not Fear.
     If you read my 2014 Resolution Recap, you know why I am doing this...It is a simple concept that I have recently embraced and want to keep going.

3.  Twice a month (minimum) get my camera out and take pictures.
     I have a tendency only to use my camera when I am on vacation.  My photography will improve by shooting more and just as important, I love spending time with my camera.  The city that I live in is beautiful and I need to document my view of it....and so are the people and animals that inhabit it.

4.  Do a Money Savings Challenge.
    Redo from 2014, I had no plan last year, but I do now and it's a twist of a popular one seen on both Facebook and Pinterest.  I will be doing a post on my plan in the next week or so to explain....

5.  Get the piano tuned and then find a piano teacher and start taking lessons again.
     Throughout 2014, I began to miss playing the piano consistently.  When I was playing, it was a great stress reliever.  I had certain pieces that I would play when I was upset or frustrated and I would take it out on the keys and pour my passion into it.  The piano in my house has been left alone for years, and if you know pianos, they need and loved to be played to stay healthy.  I, first, need to come up with funds to get my piano happy again, and then I want to take lessons and play again.  I miss the joy of playing a new piece.  I also want to see if by being a little older, my fear of playing in public will of lessened or if I will need to overcome that as well....

6.  Do a Reading Challenge.
     I am a voracious reader.  I read a lot.  I mean A LOT.  Having said that, it does not mean I have been reading great novels or a wide variety of books.  I have fallen into a lazy reading pattern and with this challenge will break out of it.  I found my challenge on Pinterest, of course I did you are thinking, and will be doing a post with categories and my planned books, but if you don't want to wait for it, here is a link to my Pinterest post, 2015 Book Challenge.

7.  Cross more Items off my BucketList.
    Yes, more National Parks will be visited in 2015, but I am also planning on some of the more service oriented items as well.

8.  Don't Let Things Sit (emotions, projects, or you name it).  Stay in the PRESENT.
     When I deal with things immediately, I do well..
     If I let them fester, I don't....
    I need to stay in the PRESENT, not the past, and not thinking about a future that I can not control.
    For the projects, working until completion and enjoy the process....

9.  Journal consistently, at least twice a month.
     When I journal, I deal with things immediately...(see above)
     I also just get it out of my head, so my mind quiets.
    I plan to do traditional journaling, journaling with questions to guide, and SoulCollage cards.
    During my Yoga retreat, every afternoon, I hung out in a hammock and journaled and I began to feel better....and I realized how much I needed journaling in my life.

Another long list, but once again, it just feels right.
Here we go 2015.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Double Take...

I'll admit it...
I forgot.

Truth be told, I wrote it in another location, my personal journal.

You have been with this for a year and so I thought you were due some closure.

About my 2014 New Year's Resolutions.....
let go of that breath I know you were holding. (snark intended)

First, let's review the list and why I chose them here....

And now for closure,

#1.  Get cards to people on time.
      My best year ever.... my niece, who's Birthday was December 26th, may not agree with me as I sent her card not only late but to her dorm address and not her home address where she was at the time of her Birthday.  A pleasant surprise will greet her when she gets back to school.  Surprise!!!  That was my only big goof on this one.  My entire family was pretty much in shock this year.

#2.  Finish Projects in a timely and sane manner.
    I Let it Go!!!  Let it Go!!  Sorry, couldn't help but breaking into song.  I released this notion that it HAD TO BE DONE NOW!!!!!!  and had more fun with my crafty and other projects this year.  The ultimate irony of this, by relaxing I generally got things done faster.

#3.  Work on my personal style.
    I did ok with this one.  I struggled with a little weight that I put on throughout the year and it definitely put me in a not buying clothes mood.  I did, however, clean out my closets and drawers and donated clothing I either did not like, did not fit, or was so totally out of style no one would want to be near me when I wore it.  I actually bought 2 items that are in my Pinterest 'My Style' board and love them.  I also realized I am completely ok with going to the grocery store in sweats and no makeup and I stopped feeling like I had to dress up for things that did not matter to me.  On the flip side, I love to dress up for events.  Glam me up on those occasions.  The last thing I did for my personal style was to CHOP my hair!!  It went from reaching the bottom of my shoulder blades to right below my ears.  It was liberating and apparently flattering because people have been telling me to keep this hair cut.

#4.  Figure out my Yoga practice
  I found a studio, 2 streets away from my house that I can walk to, and LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  It is not a trendy place.  It focuses on the basics and it makes be calm.  I was very inconsistent, however, about going when life got funky, which is the absolute worst time to stop and that is something I am still working on, consistency.

#5.  Find balance in my workout schedule.
   Remember how I almost did not put this on my list?  I wrote a whole post about it in February, called A bit of the Blahs....  This resolution gave me grief.  I struggled the ENTIRE YEAR and it was not until mid December during an Abdominal Massage in Mexico that I realized why.  It was an emotional moment I tell you.... I honestly could not breathe....  I was working out due to fear.  I was never going to find balance in fear.  It is just not possible.  I had to and have to continue to workout from a place of love.  For example, I love what my body is able to do today or I love how I feel when I am in class or I love what I am doing.  This is going to be a lifelong process, but at least I know now what balance in my workout schedule should look like.
   Since December, I have taken days off when I have not felt well, instead of pushing myself too hard.  I have let go the expectation of what my poses should look like in yoga and have made progress like you can not believe.  I have made plans not to do it alone.
#6.  Cross items off my Bucket List.
  I love this one....more National Parks were visited, I completed a MARATHON, I had a tarot card reading, I'm almost done with the 100 best movies ever made list, and there were a few more.  This will make another appearance in 2015.

#7.  Do a monthly savings challenge.
  Absolute failure on this one.  I did not have a plan.  I did not make a plan.  I should of had the plan before I made the resolution.  Financially, I did ok in 2014, but I could of done better with a plan.  I am redoing this in 2015 and I already have my plan in place.

#8.  Be more creative.
  I put a lot of thought, effort and time into this one and eventually it paid off.  It was not without its pitfalls, however, I took classes that I just didn't click with, struggled with finding the right medium, and had some doubts.  In September, I found my unexpected gift.  I fell in love with Watercolors and for a person who is unable to draw a straight line with a ruler (I get that weird ruler bump), it loved me back.  I am enjoying painting immensely and am continuing my classes in 2015.

#9.  Maintain my progress and Move Forward.
   This year was interesting.  It had some High Highs and very Low Lows.  I got completely flipped by the end of the year and had lost my balance.  The benefit, however, of some life experience is that I flipped back right side up faster and with more ease than I had in the past.  I realized there are some very simple things that help keep me in balance and will use them not only when things are going well, but when they are not.  I also will ask for help before it gets too bad.  I am very lucky and grateful for the people in my life who have offered and given help to me.

Was that a year or what?
Some successes and some not.
But I will never regret making the Resolutions....


Thursday, January 1, 2015

An Argument For...

As the New Year approached, I noticed a a troubling trend....

picking on New Year's Resolutions.

It's easy to pick on them, I admit...
the low success rate...
the repeats...

I am here, however, to defend the beleaguered tradition.

I do resolutions every year and for the most part have been fairly successful at them and I think I may have a few tips to help out.

#1.  Keep your list visible.
        I have my list on my phone in my reminder list.  I have it written in my journal I write in throughout the year.  I have yet another copy written on a piece of a paper that moves about my room.  I even put it here on my blog.

Keep it where you will see it.  It reminds you.  It will encourage you.

#2.  Have a plan for each and every item on your list.
       It does not have set in concrete, but at least have an idea of how you are going to accomplish them.  The one item I completely missed on in 2014 was the one item I did not have a plan for when I made my list.....  Have a plan, people!!!

#3.  It does not have to be, nor will it be perfect....
       Life is a two steps forward, one step back proposition periodically.  You will have success, but you will also have some failures.  DO NOT GIVE UP!!!!  For 2014, I had a resolution to explore my creativity.  My first 2 attempts at classes were dismal failures, but the third one was where I found success.  Sometimes you have to find a different teacher, a different class, or sometimes it just needs to be at a different time in your life.  The missed attempts lead you where you want to go by showing you what does not work.  Thomas Edison said it best....'If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward'....

#4.  Do not try and change too much too fast...
      Life is not a sprint.  It is a marathon.  You will not lose 30 pounds in a week.  You will not read all of the classics in a week.  Somethings take time and I, personally, believe this is a very good thing.  Case in point, my resolution in 2014 about finding balance in my workouts.  I struggled with this the ENTIRE year, until I realized something in December that brought it all into focus.  I needed the marathon of 2014 to learn what  I needed to know to finally get it.  It will come, and like my advice in #3,  don't give up.

#5.  Your list is personal.
       It's yours and no one else's.  Yes, there will be some common resolutions, but you are unique.  Embrace that!  You may have 1 items or you may have 10, it is up to YOU!  And remember, this very important fact,  no one has to see your entire list.  If there is something you want support or maybe a buddy for, by all means, share it, but there is no requirement that your list needs to be public.
       So Melissa, you are now wanting to know, why in your tip #1 did you say that you put your list on the blog for all to see?  For me, the accountability and adventures of resolution make for easy blog posts.  However, in some years, there are some items that do not make it onto the blog.  They were too personal and did not need to be in the public eye.
      My list of resolutions always seems to be a representative of my hopes, dreams, and yes, frustrations in my life.

#6.  Who says you have to start January 1st?
      If the cliche of a New Year's Resolution drives you bonkers, start in February, or June.  It's your list and your life, start when you want, just start!

#7.   Finally, have some fun with it!!
      Not all of your resolutions have to serious.  Make a resolutions to celebrate weird holidays.   Watch all of the Monty Python movies.   Go sledding as much as possible.    Remember to have some fun.

I hope this has persuaded you to at least think about making some New Year's Resolutions...
and not to give up in March.


Fly By February....

If I thought January went fast,  February upped the game and went warp speed..... my view of February as it flew on by... I kind of ha...