Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 - The Year of Exploreading & Throwback to the Books

In the last two years, I've read lots of books (120 and 124 respectively). For 2017, I wanted to challenge and change how I read. Inspired by the Book Riot Retro Rereads and Read Harder Challenge, I came up with my own reading adventures. 

First, I wanted to stretch my reading. I wouldn't say I have a book "type," but there are genres I read more than others. I identified literary areas I've never ventured into and things that connect to who I am to cultivate 28 new and different opportunities for my Exploreading Challenge (Did I make up a word? Of course I did, y'all. This is a big deal.)

  1. A biography or memoir of someone I don't know much about
  2. A biography or memoir of someone I know a lot about
  3. A book from the Frequently Challenged Books list
  4. Newberry Award winner or Honor book
  5. A book that will be released as a movie/TV show in 2017
  6. A book I've picked because of the cover
  7. A book I've picked because of the title
  8. A book set in Kansas
  9. A book set in Texas
  10. A book from the religious fiction genre
  11. A book from the western genre
  12. A book from the alternate history genre
  13. A book of poetry
  14. A book of letters/correspondence
  15. A book that is a re-imagining of a fairy tale
  16. A book I did not enjoy reading in school
  17. A microhistory
  18. A book about a current event from the last decade
  19. A book about a historical event before 1900
  20. A book about a historical event or figure that is not well-known
  21. A book that focuses on issues related to class
  22. A book about someone who works in higher education/student affairs
  23. A book that was released the year I was born (1982)
  24. A book about elementary school from when I was in elementary school (90s-ish)
  25. A book about high school from when I was in high school (Late 90s/Early 2000s)
  26. A book about college from when I was in college (Early 2000s)
  27. A book about a hobby I have and/or want to acquire
  28. A book with "life advice" I can utilize

Second, I'll be re-reading 24 books for my Throwback to the Books Challenge. These are books I read from elementary school through the last five years. Some are books I perpetually love and revisit, and others are ones I haven't spent time with in ages. 
  1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  2. Allergic To My Family by Liza Ketchum Morrow
  3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  4. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume 
  5. The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  6. Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
  7. Hoop Dreams by Ben Joravsky
  8. The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton
  9. It's Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
  10. Lyddie by Karen Paterson
  11. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  12. MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
  13. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  15. Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great by Judy Blume
  16. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
  17. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  18. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
  19. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  20. A book from the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  21. A book from the American Girl series
  22. A book from the Babysitters Club series
  23. A book from the Encyclopedia Brown series
  24. A book from the Little House on the Prairie series that isn't Little House in the Big Woods or Little House on the Prairie
I'm excited to embark on these 52 adventures, take a look, and see what's in these books (Bonus Points if you see what I did there) in 2017!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 - The Year in Books

It's been an exciting year for me where books are concerned. I read so many really awesome things, lots of regular awesome things, and very few not so awesome things.

When it comes to really awesome reads, I'd offer up the following (in no particular order) as my Top Ten Books I Loved the Most and Would Highly, Highly Recommend:

  1. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
  2. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
  3. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
  4. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  5. Leading Imperfectly by James Robilotta
  6. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
  7. The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
  8. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
  9. Quitter by Jon Acuff 
  10. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity
Below you'll see all my reads for the year, and if you want to know more about what I thought, you can click through (the links are in the parentheses) and learn more. And and if you're really excited about this kind of stuff and would like to see what I've read since 2013 (I know, I know, you were hoping there was a way to do that!), you can check out My Life in Books page.

Looking to 2017, I'm changing up how I read. I'll be blogging about the challenge(s) I'll be taking on tomorrow, so stay tuned!

(1 - 4)
1. Fables: Rose Red (#15)
2. Fables: Super Team (#16)
3. Fables: Inherit the Wind (#18)
4. Fables: Cubs in Toyland (#19)

(5 - 8)
5. Fables: Snow White (#19)
6. Fables: Camelot (#20)
7. Fables: Happily Ever After (#21)
8. Fables: Farewell (#22)

(9 - 12)
9. Big Little Lies
10. Black Chalk
11. Show Your Work
12. Steal Like An Artist

(13 - 16)
13. The Maid's Version
14. Summer Friends
15. Sway
16. Show & Tell

(17 - 20)
17. Click
18. The 19th Wife
19. Furiously Happy (Audiobook)
20. The Husband's Secret

21. The Worrier's Guide to Life
22. When I Was Elena
23. The Thirteenth Tale
24. Fools Rush In

(25 - 28)
25. Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage
26. Me Before You
27. Friday Night Lights
28. Queen of Bright & Shiny Things

(29 - 32)
29. #GIRLBOSS (Audiobook)
30. The Vacationers
31. Blackballed: The Black & White Politics of Race on America's College Campuses
32. All Fall Down

(33 - 36)
33. Local Knowledge
34. Good to Great
35. Day After Night
36. Love That Boy

(37 - 40)
37. Quitter
38. It's A Wonderful Lie: 26 Truths About Life In Your Twenties
39. The Crown
40. Start

(41 - 44)
41. Six Years
42. The Borrower
43. The Weight of Blood
44. Escape

(45 - 48)
45. Strengths-Based Parenting
46. First Comes Love

47. Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less
48. The Truth Hurts

(49 - 52)
49. The Moonflower Vine
50. Sisterland
51. Sprint
52. Not That Kind of Girl

(53 - 56)
53. Wedding Night
54. One Hundred Demons

55. Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary
56. Shoplifter

(57 - 60)
57. Y The Last Man: Unmanned
58. The Saga of the Bloody Benders
59. Fairest - Wide Awake
60. Little Fish

(61 - 64)
61. Golden State
62. Y The Last Man: Cycles
63. Fairest: Hidden Kingdom
64. Arab of the Future

(65 - 68)
65. Y The Last Man: One Small Step
66. Y The Last Man: Safeword
67. Fairest: The Return of the Maharaja
68. Fairest: Of Men and Mice

(69 - 72)
69. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
70. Y The Last Man: Ring of Truth
71. Fairest: Clamor for Glamour
72. Fairest: In All the Land

(73 - 76)
73. The Last Good Girl
74. Goat
75. Columbine
76. We Are Called To Rise

(77 - 80)
77. Finding Audrey
78. Catalyst
79. Orphan Train
80. The Last Star

(81 - 84)
81. Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs
82. The Bees
83. All the Missing Girls
84. Eligible

(85 - 88)
85. What I Now Know: Letters to My Younger Self
86. Truly Madly Guilty
87. Super Better
88. A Dog's Purpose

(89 - 92)
89. On Grief & Grieving
90. Getting Naked
91. Silos, Politics & Turf Wars
92. The Undomestic Goddess

(93 - 96)
93. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
94. Snow White: A Graphic Novel
95. Brady, Brady, Brady
96. Death by Meeting

(97 - 100)
97. Present Over Perfect
98. Leading Imperfectly

99. Family Pictures
100. Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen

(101 - 104)
101. Still Alice
102. Someday, Someday, Maybe
103. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k
104. The Underground Railroad

(105 - 108)
105. The Invention of Wings
106. Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction
107. Girls Like Me
108. The Boston Girl

(109 - 112)
109. We Gon' Be Alright
110. Double Play: Faith and Family First
111. With Malice
112. Forever

(113 - 116)
113. The Next Best Thing
114. The Bookseller
115. The Boy Who Fell From the Sky
116. The Secret Keeper

(117 - 120)
117. O Great One!
118. Emory's Gift
119. Hamilton: The Revolution
120. American Girl: Ultimate Visual Guide

121. Feminist Fight Club
122. Talking As Fast As I Can
123. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
124. Blogging for Creatives

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Reads - #121 - 124

With the sun setting on 2016, I squeezed in four more reads to set a new reading record. Here's the last four reads of the year for me!

Feminist Fight Club was by the author of one of my all-time favorite articles - How Not to be Manterrupted in Meetings. The book was in the same vein and offered some really great advice for how to navigate the workforce. I would note that some of the tips were things I already do/have figured out along the way, so that was good affirmation to keep on keeping on. Also, Twentysomething Andrea (who didn't always have it figured out) would have adore this read.

Talking As Fast As I Can is Lauren Graham's memoir. It was predictably wonderful. For the Gilmore Girls fans in the crowd, there's lots of GG talk both OG and revival stuff. For the Parenthood crew, there's not much on that experience - Not bad, just a note. To me, the lines between Lauren and Lorelei are often blurred, and the book was very much in that tone. It's a quick read and a worthwhile one.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful was an advance reading copy I received. It's a YA book focused on a main character navigating bipolar disorder. I don't know that I've read many (any) books with a character who had this experience, so it was interesting in that regard. From a mental health perspective, it was well done, especially because it showed a variety of reactions from various characters.

Blogging for Creatives was a really helpful read about blogging. While blogging seems pretty intuitive, this was informative on ways to really engage readers and build out content. Looking toward 2017, there's definitely ways I'm planning on using some of the ideas in here.

And with that, #2016Reads is a wrap. Stay tuned for some new and exciting things for #2017Reads!

Friday, December 23, 2016

What's Making Me Happy - 12/23

It's Christmas Eve Eve which is enough to make me happy, but for the sake of this feature, here's some other neat things.

First off. . . 


As I shared last week, it's QuikTrip's Twelve Days of Christmas. Nothing makes me go full Stanley Hudson like Pretzel Day. I've been anxiously awaiting for this offer to come up, and today was the day!

Now, only 364 days until the next Pretzel Day. . .

Also, this week, I checked out our downtown coffee shop. 

I've been meaning to stop in since we moved, and I finally had a chance. Y'all, it's the cutest, and it has delicious coffee. I anticipate I'll be a regular here before long.

And finally, it's Christmas card season. I love checking the mail this time of year and seeing all the fun things that await. I also love sending cards. We opted for a Christmas letter this year, and it's been fun to hear from people that they got our message and love learning about what we're up to.

Hope you're finding the happiness and joy during this time of year!! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Reads - #117 - 120

And just like that, I matched last year's reading total (with a few weeks to go!)

O Great One! was a book I saw on a display at an airport recently. It is about the importance of positive recognition in the workplace, and it's told as a leadership fable of sorts by the CEO of Yum! (KFC). I liked it. . .didn't love it. There are some interesting concepts, and it's always good to remind people to appreciate people.

Emory's Gift is a book I'm still figuring out how I felt about it. The book is about a boy who befriends a bear. It was an intriguing story, and it was well-written. It kept me reading because of the way it was written, but I didn't necessarily totally connect with the story and characters.

Hamilton: The Revolution was so great. So great, as all things Hamilton are. It was an incredible read to really get a window into Lin Manuel Miranda's mind. It was fascinating to learn about how he built the story of Hamilton and how much he thought about how to integrate various hip-hop inspirations. I didn't think it was possible, but it made me love Lin and Hamilton even more.

American Girl: Ultimate Visual Guide was fantastic. Here's the thing y'all - I love American Girl. I have four actual dolls (Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha and Molly), and I have always loved the franchise. This was kind of like reading the old AG catalogs (remember those?!?), and it took me back. It was also interesting to read about where things have gone since my fandom has diminished, and I'll be honest, it totally made me want to get back into American Girl.

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Reads - #113 - 116

With the end of my #2016Reads cycle getting ever closer, I'm getting closer to matching (and *fingers crossed* maybe exceeding) last year's read count.

The Next Best Thing was bound to be good as most all things Jennifer Weiner are. This one, however, may be one of my top JW reads. I found the storyline (particularly the end) especially endearing and empowering. Definitely a good "It's too darn cold to go outside, so I'll stay inside and read" read.

The Bookseller was a bit of a mystery read that was more intriguing than I expected. Truth be told, I picked this one at random after reading the blurb on the front flap (Is there a term for that I've forgotten?) and wanting to find out what happened. There's a twist in this one that I didn't see coming, and it was a new spin on the idea of "what might have been" to check out.

The Boy Who Fell From the Sky is a memoir, and y'all, I hate writing about memoirs. I mean, there's nothing the author can do to make their story better and/or worse. It just it was it is. This particular one is a brother writing about his brother who is killed in a plane crash. He pieces together his life through his writings and friends. Really that's all I have to say because again, I'm not critiquing someone's life.

The Secret Keeper is a thriller that kept me guessing. About halfway through, the twist in the story is revealed. At least I thought, it was the final twist. It wasn't, and the story kept unraveling ending in something unexpected I wouldn't have guessed. I'm not always a historical fiction reader, but the way this one was written kept me captivating through the nearly 500 pages. I have another Kate Morton in my queue, and I'm excited to check it out!

Friday, December 16, 2016

What's Making Me Happy - 12/16

The happiest part of the week is that my nephew William turns one tomorrow! It's been a blast to have this kid around for the last year, and it's so fun seeing him grow, change and figure out how his world works! 

Here's a shot of us when I babysat him last week and took to using some Snapchat filters to keep us me entertained.

Second, it's the best time of year y'all! It's the 12 Days of QuikTrip Christmas!!

QuikTrip is one of my happy places, as is anywhere that has free things. We're on day five (so there's still seven days that you can check it out!) So far, I've gotten a free Big Q, roller grill item (#taquitosforever) and small coffee. I've got my fingers crossed that this year like last involves a free pretzel because Pretzel Day? Well, I like Pretzel Day. (Bonus points go to you there if you get my reference.) Note: I did opt out of the free soft-serve cone because of the cold and the Core Power drink (because, wut?)

Finally, I had an amazing meet-up with my friends Amanda and Jenny this week. These two are truly people who just make me better by always making me think about work and life differently. I love the time we get together because it's so much good energy and fun, and I always leave feelings inspired and full. Stay tuned because we've got some big dreams and plans in 2017 that I'm excited to explore together.

How about y'all? What's good this week?

Friday, December 9, 2016

What's Making Me Happy - 12/9

Again, I own that it's been a minute (or month) since I've had this regular feature up. I've certainly been happy since then, but just haven't blogged it. #workingonit

First up, there's my new coffee station!

Here's the thing - I love coffee. It forever makes me happy. Awhile back, my in-laws gave us a Keurig they'd won at an auction and didn't need because they already had one. We took it even though I was already regularly seeing my Nespresso. Back in the apartment, we didn't really have space for two coffeemakers, especially with only one coffee drinker. Now that we're in a house, we have more space to work with. I found this table at a local antique mall (Lone Elm - 10/10 - Highly Recommend!), and it fit just perfectly in this nook making my perpetual happy place complete.

This week, I also finally joined Lifetime Movie Club. Someone had told me this was a thing ages ago. However, it was only available for Apple products. Now, it's on Android. Now, Andrea, what is Lifetime Movie Club?!? It's a subscription based service for Lifetime movies (!!) We started with a one week free trial, but I also put my husband on notice that I'm going to stick with this for at least the next month when I have some time off work. I should note it's not all the Lifetime movies, but they add a movie every day, and it's got some of the greats. Given we don't have cable (and haven't for two years), it's a nice return to one of my favorite hobbies of yore.

I also discovered a fantastic podcast thanks to my pal Kristen - My Favorite Murder. (Time Out - Hold your judgment. I'm not weird. Let me explain why it makes me happy.) The podcast is two besties Gretchen and Karen talking about true crime - both well-known cases and hometown connections. What makes it so great is not really the focus, but the banter between the two of them. It's the type of podcast you listen to and say, "I want to go to there." The recounting of the true crime stuff (there's plenty of that, too) is also fascinating and well-worth the listen if you dig that kind of thing (I obvs do.)

And of course, I'm over the moon that Fuller House has returned and will have it finished by the end of this weekend later this evening. In all my wildest dreams, I never thought I'd get to see new episodes of this show again.

What about y'all? What's on your happiness radar this week?

(P.S. Shameless Plug - Made some big blog steps this week and created a facebook page to keep updated. You'd make ME happy if you'd give it a like -

Thursday, December 8, 2016

You don't know my life, Buzzfeed. . .oh wait.

(Note: I did not check the one about a Kitchen Aid because I already own one. Also, I don't need to know how to cross-stitch because I already know how.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On Writing

I've wanted to be a writer my whole life. In fact, here's one of my earliest books, The Pony Who Only Had Three Legs.

My childhood journals and When I Grow Up prompts are full of my wants to be an author. In the last twenty years, I've found other "things" that interest and inspire me, but words have already remained in my heart. 

Earlier this year, I bought this notebook.

In it, I've started writing random ideas, words of wisdom and other assorted nuggets that I want to use for something that I just haven't figured out yet. Although as I've made my random notes, I have realized one thing - I must write more. 

Today, I purchased a domain for my blog and made a facebook page. A $12 investment and the courage to ask people to "Please like me" isn't much, but it's a step in doing more. I'm not expecting fame and/or fortune by putting pen to paper (or phlanges to paper since I'm typing?), but in investing more, I'm giving myself permission and a needed push.

After all, I sure do love words, and now I can use them even more.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2016 Reds - #105 - 112

I read this round, but am only now getting to blogging them. #usualroutine

The Invention of Wings was a book I read for book club. Truth be told, I'm not sure I'd have picked it up otherwise. Y'all, this one is fantastic. It's historical fiction, and it is inspired by and tells the story of the real-life Grimke sisters. It's a realistic story of what it was like for women in the early 1800s and how much they couldn't do. However, it also talks about what these women did do within the parameters they had, as well as how they pushed things. Once you start this one, you won't be able to stop reading.

Between Breaths was a book I'd seen Elizabeth Vargas talk about on 20/20, GMA, etc. It was still an honest and fantastic read. She really delves into her story, where her problems began, how they felt, and how she navigated/still navigates her addiction. 

Girls Like Me is a book that is actually in prose. It was very YA, meaning "Teenage Andrea" would've loved it. Thirtysomething Andrea enjoyed it, too. The way the story was told, and the emotions and teenage struggles that it explored were really well done. It's a quick read and an enjoyable one.

The Boston Girl was great. This is my third Anita Diamant (I've also read The Red Tent and Day After Night), and the way she writes female characters is so beautiful. This one focused on a grandmother re-telling what it was like to grow up in Boston through the early 20th century. It was another read I enjoyed because while not pleasant, it focused on the realities of the time and how Addie (the main character) found her way through them.

We Gon' Be Alright was a recommendation from a friend. It's a quick read and a powerful one. It is a set of essays focusing on recent events and the current realities of race in the country. It was interesting and gave me a lot to consider and reflect on about the topic.

Double Play: Faith and Family First is a book written by Ben & Julianna Zobrist. I adore them. Ben played for the Royals last year, and that's when the Zobrists really came on my radar. After watching them throughout the World Series, I realized they'd written a book together. This is a really wonderful piece on their love story. It's faith-based and really beautiful.

With Malice was a book I'd forgotten I'd downloaded with a free Audible trial. Knowing how much I read, no one should be surprised. . . The story focuses on the narrator (Jill) who's just woken up in a hospital and has no memory of an accident in Italy that killed her best friend. The book includes flashbacks of what Jill does remember, news coverage, fuzzy memories returning, and it keeps you on your toes throughout. It was unexpected and thrilling, and I often found myself walking extra (when I listened) just so I could find out what happened next.

Forever was a Judy Blume re-read. It'd been a long time since I'd revisited this one. This isn't my favorite Judy Blue (still love you, JB), but it's a good reminder of how much she covered topics in her books that just weren't talked about in the time - or even now. There are definitely other books she's written that I love way more, but it was good to go back in time. Also, I made the mistake of looking through the goodreads reviews on this - Don't do that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

2016 Reds - #101 - 104

Hey, here's some things I've read (somewhat) lately.

Still Alice was phenomenal. It's emotional and tragic and beautiful and all the things. If you're not familiar with the book (or movie), it's about a woman who has Alzheimer's. I have a working knowledge of the disease, but this book really, really explains and explores the impact. 

Someday, Someday, Maybe is actually a book I read for a book club discussion (that's happening in a few months) and also because after the first read of this quartet, I needed something lighter. It's written by Lauren Graham, so I was pretty sure I would enjoy this. And the good news is I did. 

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k was a book I happened upon looking for the original version. This was great. It was a good reminder of perspective and figuring out how to live the life that makes the most sense for you. 

The Underground Railroad was an ARC that showed up unexpectedly at my door. It's another read that is powerful in its tragedy. It kept me reading and offered a perspective on the Underground Railroad that was different. It's another emotional read, but one to add to a to-read list for sure.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Taking Down Chairs

This week, I re-read Present Over Perfect. Truth be told, I could read this book every day and take something different from it. For this time through the pages, there's a piece that particularly stuck with me. It was the recounting of a discussion with two pastors about the growth of a church:

"The seasoned pastor pushed him gently: 'You'e built this, and it's okay to say that. You've intentionally and strategically built a very large church. It's okay to say that.'

The young pastor kept protesting, preferring the narrative of wild and unexplained growth. 'We had nothing to do with it,' he insisted.

'Well, not nothing,' said the older pastor. 'You kept putting up more chairs.'"

Over the last few years, I've put up a lot of chairs. In fact, at this point, I'm beyond chairs, and I'm living in a world of standing room only. 

I have said yes to many, many things - more things than I care to admit. I've gotten in a bad habit of thinking of doing all the things brings all the feelings and fulfillment. And well, spoiler alert, it doesn't. I've defaulted to yes so many times that my commitment doesn't mean much anymore, and that's not a great place to be.

I have become fearful of what a no means. What if I'm not there? What if I can't do something? Surely, I can do this one more thing? And so I have. I have over and over and over again.

A few weeks ago, something I was planning on doing on a Saturday fell through. This meant I was going to get to spend the full day with my husband. And his reaction was the moment I really realized I had too many chairs. I see my husband every day. Working from home, I spend the bulk of my time in our house. I'm doing all I can for us and our home, right? Nope. His incredible excitement to get this time with me showed I was giving too much to too much. In giving time and energy to all, the quantity is great, but the quality is pretty terrible.

The reality of this wasn't one I'm particularly proud of, and it's one I'm still working through. So, right now, I'm committing publicly (and privately) to taking down some chairs. I'm committing to re-discovering, re-connecting and re-focusing on what matters to me. I'm committing to having open hours on my calendar and days with no plans. I'm committing to using more energy to spend love and life on the people and passions that are closest and most important to me.

"When you say, 'This is what I can do; this is what I can't,' you'll find so much freedom in that. You'll be free to love your work, because you're not using it as a sneaky way to be loved or approved of. You'll be free to love the things you give to people, because you're giving them freely, untangled from resentments and anger." 
- Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

Friday, October 28, 2016

What's Making Me Happy - 10/28

Y'all, Y'ALL, autumn is finally, finally here, and I just love everything about it.

First off, I am obsessed with the colors of fall trees. Here's some I snapped this week.

(Note: This happiness is subject to change when I realize what fallen leaves mean for our yard.

Second off, I love a good fall bonfire. And last night, we had one for my brother's 31st birthday party. Also, if you're not using a washer drum for a firepit, you're doing it wrong.

And, AND to pay homage to my love of fall, I got this print for a steal at Kirkland's today. It was $5!! I'd eyed at the start of the season, but couldn't make the price work, but when it went 75% off, it had to be in my home. HOW DID KIRKLAND'S KNOW I LOVE ALL OF THIS?!?!? 

(While meant for fall, don't be surprised if this is a year-round decoration.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

What's Making Me Happy - 10/21

It's been a minute (or months) since I've taken the time to write this regular post. Excited to get back in the swing and share some happy things with the world.

First of all, I think writing this post about how I've been and how I am now was a really great part of the week. It meant sharing some things that I've typically not, but putting that honesty and authentic "stuff" out there was a better feeling than I anticipated. Then, hearing from amazing family and friends with words of support just reinforced that I'm fortunate to be where I'm at.

I've read some really awesome books this year, but this one has been one of the best. It was particularly well-timed as far as when I got it from the library. I read it an evening, and it was just magnificent. The next day, I even went out and bought a copy, so I could have it to mark down all the best passages (and/or the whole book). And then, a group of women I regularly meet with at work decided to read it together. I'm excited to delve into again and to discuss it with some really great people.

And with October having no Royals baseball, I've been feeling especially nostalgic. I finally had the chance to check out the film about the World Series this week. Last night, as I watched, I was a happy teary, ugly crying mess of emotions. Sometimes I can't even believe the last two years happened. I even watch the games and worry they might turn out differently. But they don't, and we were really, really there. I'm bummed we don't have this same fun in 2016, but the memories and joy from the last two postseasons are guaranteed to keep me happy for awhile.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


The summer before sixth grade, I fell in love. I don't honestly remember the details of how it all happened, but the Houston Rockets swept me away as they defeated the New York Knicks in seven games to win a NBA Championship. As my sixth grade year began, I was head over heels for NBA Basketball. Somewhere along the way, I was even able to talk my parents into buying me a Hakeem Olajuwon jersey. As I think back to my sixth grade days, the best days were the days I rocked that jersey to school. With my new love also came my full immersion into the game. I meticulously monitored stats, watched games and memorized rosters. The NBA was my jam (#seewhatididthere), and even though it was an unlikely and solo infatuation for me in the small town of Auburn, Kansas, it was my thing. 

Along the way, my love dissipated. I moved, there was middle school, high school etc. I still took time each summer to write the picks of the NBA Draft in my Grant Hill notebook, as well as final conference standings and playoff results (and in fact to this day, I still name the NBA teams alphabetically when I can't fall asleep), but I didn't feel as comfortable sharing my love with everyone anymore. 

(Keep this story in mind. This transition will make no sense, but I promise, it's connected.)

Truth be told, when I started blogging, I knew this was the post I would always write, but I just didn't know when I would be ready. I think I'm ready now.

The last four years have been really, really awesome in so many, many ways. I could go on and on and on about this. However, they've also been really tough, particularly the last two. 

I've come to realize and know I've had anxiety my whole life. I never called it that. I just thought that my reactions and worries were what everyone had. Doesn't everyone worst case scenario and disaster plan oftentimes to the point of tears and panic? Doesn't everyone think of every possible outcome to have total control and preparation? Doesn't everyone just spend their days controlling all they can to avoid surprises? Doesn't everyone have a crippling fear of failure that leads to overworking and often unreachable standards for success? I do, I do, I do. . . For me, I can check ALL. OF. THE. ABOVE.

Two years ago, with the aid of my then fiance (now husband), I started to realize my emotional "stuff" wasn't the healthiest. This had been exposed by some professional "funk," and after some reflection, I realized the time had come to maybe get some help.

So, I got the name of a therapist. I had the name in my planner for weeks before I finally worked with my fiance to make the first appointment. And then work got busy, and I had to cancel. I never rescheduled.

Fast forward to a year and a half later, and I knew I needed help that was beyond me. For all my love of having things under my own control, I was also my own worst enemy. However, I couldn't find the courage to make the call. I traded chores with my husband (he scheduled for me, while I ran some errands), and I got the therapist on the calendar.

Nine months ago, I went to my therapist for the first time. It was utterly terrifying. I had to own and name all my struggles. I had to talk about my weaknesses, my failures, and all the stuff I just didn't have figured out. Y'all, it was hard, but I committed to getting better for myself and all those I love.

And there have been some dark days. In touching this anxious beast that has always been my comfort, I've opened up some wounds. I've had to learn how to rewire my own brain. I've had to reset my defaults and power through the pain of the mistakes I've made along the way. I've had to come to terms with a lot of regret and when I didn't live as fully and happy as I could. Taking on myself has been the hardest, scariest thing I've done, but it's also been the bravest and best.

Last week, I walked into my therapist's office and told her for the first time in nine months, "You know what I realized? I'm actually good at what I do." Self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome has so consumed me the last four years that I've forgotten how to feel and say that to myself. I've craved external validation, said "Yes" to everything in a quest for fulfillment, and never quite felt like I was enough. As I finally said these words, she smiled because she knew this all along, but she also knew that I had to go on my journey to get there.

I can't tell you that I'll ever be "cured" because I know anxiety will always be there. Yesterday was an off day, as my sternum (where my anxiety rents space in my chest) was inflamed, but I've come to know that these days happen, but they don't have to be the norm. Today I'll try again and see if I can get it right.

So much of my thirty third year was working on me. I started at a really rough place, and I had to claw through this year to get back to where I knew I could be. As the year has gone on, I've become more comfortable naming how I'm feeling. And I've been so fortunate to have family and friends who have affirmed my experience and loved and supported me all the same. If you are one of those people who's done that, thank you a million times over.

As I thought about my thirty fourth year, I realized I wanted it to be something special. I didn't want to make myself a list of goals I couldn't reach (#classicandrea), but rather I wanted a theme to signal my forward progress. 

As I reflected and thought about what that could be, I thought about that Hakeem Olajuwon jersey. When I think back on where I'm at and where I've been, NBA lovin' 12 Year Old Andrea was one of the most authentic versions of myself. I didn't care what other people thought, rather I only cared what made me happy. And that's the version of me I want to be again.

So, my present to myself for my 34th year? A #34 Hakeem Olajuwon jersey. I found it on eBay (at a price I'm quite sure was lower than what my parents paid 20+ years ago - owe you for that one, Mom and Dad), and when it came in the mail this week, I squealed with excitement. Putting that jersey on felt as awesome as I hoped it would be, and it felt good to be comfortable in my own skin again.

The hashtag and accompanying theme for this year is #hakeemthedreamyear. I don't know what that means, or what this year holds. But what I do know and believe is I have the tools, resources and community to manage whatever comes next. Hakeem had the power to take down the Knicks (and the Magic in 1995), and I have the power to take on whatever comes my way.

So, #34, let's do this. For once, I just can't wait to find out what might be next.