My Favorite Books in 2018

December 10 2018 | I set a goal of reading 100 books in 2018, which I completed sometime in November and I expect I’ll finish another few. Like my 2017 post, I want to preface this with some information about me as a reader. I read mostly 300-500 page fiction, usually of the general narrative, fantasy, mystery, science fiction or romance variety. I very rarely read 600+ page or non-fiction books. So before everyone is all “how do you have the time?!” know that I can polish off a 300 page science fiction novel in about 2-3 nights. I LOVE audiobooks and I count them here. When I’m walking or running, books are often my companion. I read a lot while traveling and I travel a lot for work. I loathe airports and books absorb me, so I turn to them while flying. I usually knock back 3 books per trip. Also, I count graphic novel volumes as a book. I do not count individual comic books/issues. Also new this year I included all the chapter books (books read in multiple sittings and are 75+ pages) I read to/with my son. I’m going to continue to include the books and graphic novels I read with him – and eventually our daughter. He has started reading entirely independently this year and we’ve joined a parent-child book club. It’s remarkable to share this joy with him!

That is all to say, I surround myself with words and fantastic stories unapologetically; it was not hard to read 100 books this year, given how books infiltrate my life.

In addition, I want to start logging all the amazing (and some “meh”) children’s picture books I read with my daughter. I haven’t yet decided whether to start a seperate GoodReads account to track these or if I should just set my goal at 250 and include them in my general count. Details, details.

Logistics aside, I want to share my favorites of the year and hope that others will share theirs! A full pictorial list is below too. My reviews are brief, because seriously, time is a hot commodity but I have also shared the GoodReads description.

Finally, one last note, most of these books were not released in 2018, that is just when I read them.

As I mentioned, finishing my goal doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading until 2019, so please, join me on Goodreads and finish out 2018 with me!

Finally – SHOUTOUT LINCOLN CITY LIBRARIES! Thank you for being an important resource to me and my family.

In no particular order, my favorite books of 2018:

The Power by Naomi Alderman 

ThePowerGoodReads: In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday TimesYoung Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

Elsbeth’s Thoughts: This book, and a couple specific scenes, still haunt me or make me pause often. This is an amazing book. Easy to consume, creative beyond measure and undeniably impactful. I was interested in it because Alderman was an editor for one of my favorite science fiction website and also wrote the storylines for Zombies Run – a popular interactive running/walking app where the runner participates in an unfolding Zombie scenario (it is cool as hell for runners).  Anyway, this book is wild, at times hilarious, at times hard to read, and not at all what you expect it to be. Is is a feminist manifesto? Maybe? Does it explore the human condition and the inherent good and evil in us all? Absolutely.

Binti (#1-3, Trilogy) by Nnedi Okorafor

GoodReads: Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Elsbeth’s Thoughts: This is simply excellent science fiction that includes diverse, rarely seen in literature, representation. I cried during these books. I empathized with Binti. I judged her. I loved going on this 3 book adventure with her. The audiobook performance is suburb and adds to the novels. These are short reads, almost novellas, but some of the best science fiction I read this year.

 

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan

GoodReads: From one of America’s most critically acclaimed graphic novel writers – inspired by true events, a startlingly original look at life on the streets of Baghdad during the Iraq War. In his award-winning work on Y THE LAST MAN and EX MACHINA (one of Entertainment Weekly’s 2005 Ten Best Fiction titles), writer Brian K. Vaughan has displayed an understanding of both the cost of survival and the political nuances of the modern world. Now, in this provocative graphic novel, Vaughan examines life on the streets of war-torn Iraq.

In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. In documenting the plight of the lions, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD raises questions about the true meaning of liberation – can it be given or is it earned only through self-determination and sacrifice? And in the end, is it truly better to die free than to live life in captivity?pride

Based on a true story, VAUGHAN and artist NIKO HENRICHON (Barnum!) have created a unique and heartbreaking window into the nature of life during wartime, illuminating this struggle as only the graphic novel can.

Elsbeth’s Thoughts: If you’ve never read a comic book or graphic novel volume that brings you to tears you’ve missed out on the best of the medium. This story of the lions who escaped the Baghdad zoo in the bombing Iraq in 2003 contains some of the most beautiful illustrations I’ve ever seen in comic art juxtaposed against one of the most gut wrenching (and remarkably written) stories out there. Vaughan has earned his accolades in this industry – this book tells the story of the true and varied costs of war, and the reality of being wild and “free,” in a more nuanced way than any text-only novel possibly could.

Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, both by Neil Gaiman

I’m lumping these together, though they are not related in any way beyond being by the same author. I went on a Gaiman binge this year. These two were the captured me in the biggest way – though everything I’ve read by him is starting at a baseline of excellence.

neverwhereNeverwhere on GoodReads: Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

Elsbeth’s Thoughts: Richard Mayhew is so painfully relatable, likeable, and little depressing. The world Gaiman creates here is gritty, ruthless, exciting, scary, fantastic, and somehow a little appealing. This is a great book and to put to bluntly, I just enjoyed the hell out of it. It was a fun ride, and one I suggest others enjoy.

The Graveyard Book on GoodReads: After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddlergraveyard.jpg wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

Elsbeth’s Thoughts: This was the first of Gaiman’s youth/children’s books that I have read. I’ve seen Coraline of course, but not read the book. This is not for young children, but I’m very excited to read it with my kids in a few years (thinking ages 8 or 9). This is gruesome little tale that is full of love, heart, and mystery. The book is split into sections, which are sort of full little stories into themselves. Bod is a charming character who sticks with you. The twists and turns actually managed to surprise me – and I think it helps I love graveyards.

Here is the review I wrote immediately after listening this book: “I listened to the audio version of this and I cannot recommend that enough. Listening to the author read his own words about this beautiful, unique coming-of-age story about a boy raised in a graveyard was beyond moving and compelling. The end had me smiling through tears. I wanted to run to my kids schools and hug my babies, telling them to go explore and enjoy this great big world. I think my son (and especially my preschooler daughter) are still much too young for this book, but I look forward to sharing it with him when he is closer to 8.”

Night Watch (Discworld #29) by Terry Pratchett

GoodReads: For a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer at loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of bloody revolution. The people have found their voice at last, the flags and barricades are rising…And the question for a policeman, an officer of the law, a defender of the peace, is: Are you with them, or are you against them?

Elsbeth’s Thoughts: Let’s start with these two quotes from the book:

“Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come round again. That’s why they’re called revolutions. People die, and nothing changes.”

“There were plotters, there was no doubt about it. Some had been ordinary people who’d had enough. Some were young people with no money who objected to the fact that the world was run by old people who were rich. Some were in it to get girls. And some had been idiots as mad as Swing, with a view of the world just as rigid and unreal, who were on the side of what they called ‘the people’. Vimes had spent his life on the streets, and had met decent men and fools and people who’d steal a penny from a blind beggar and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he’d never met The People…
People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people..
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up. What would run through the streets soon enough wouldn’t be a revolution or a riot. It’d be people who were frightened and panicking. It was what happened when the machinery of city life faltered, the wheels stopped turning and all the little rules broke down.

And when that happened, humans were worse than sheep. Sheep just ran; they didn’t try to bite the sheep next to them.”

nightwatchThe final resolution of this novel was quite as bleak or depressing as the above quotes, but this particular portion of the book really impacted me in a way that many novels haven’t recently.

It did something books always should: It challenged some of my ideology and self-perception.

I sometimes fancy myself a revolutionary but as an attorney I appreciate order, logic, and even-thinking. As such Vimes deeply appeals to me, but his thoughts on “revolutions” spoke to me in a way I’m not used to. It is not pure cynicism, but rather a so-complex-it’s-simple world view.

Keep in mind, this is still part of the Discworld universe and lives in the land of fantasy – which in many ways made its social commentary even more striking and hard to swallow.

We all know Pratchett was good, but novel after novel I find I’m self saying “God damnit he was SO good.”

The Tiffany Aching Series, starting with The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30), by Terry Pratchett

Like Gaiman, I couldn’t pick one Pratchett book. I already highlighted Night Watch as a stand alone, but I’m putting the Tiffany Aching books together. They include, “The Wee Free Men,” “A Hat Full of Sky,” “Wintersmith,” “I Shall Wear Midnight,” and Pratchett’s last ever novel that I have not yet had the heart to read, “The Shepherd’s Crown.”

Tiffany is special. Just so, so, importantly, wonderfully, powerfully specially.

GoodReads: An inner series in the Discworld saga. This set of books are about Tiffany Aching, a witch-in-training with only a frying pan and her common sense and the Wee Free Men.

weefreeElsbeth’s thoughts/favorite quotes as posted to GoodReads immediately after reading:

The Wee Free Mean:Tiffany Aching is who I’ve wanted to be (and who I’ve sometimes felt like) since I was 9 years old myself. Again, these novels, laughs, wit, tears, and irreverent intellectualism. Pratchett was a master.

A Hat Full of Sky: “Rain don’t fall on a witch if she doesn’t want it to, although personally I prefer to get wet and be thankful.” “Thankful for what?” said Tiffany. “That I’ll get dry later.””

A young woman named Tiffany is changing my life. The power in these novels, set in whimsical fantasy, is moving, bone deep, and thoughtful in a way that can only have written in a spirit of joy and contented acceptance of the world. Terry Pratchett challenges readers not to be anything but themselves, which forces you to realize, your true self is your strongest self.

Wintersmith: “This I choose to do. If there is a price, this I choose to pay. If it is my death, then I choose to die. Where this takes me, there I choose to go. I choose. This I choose to do.” Oh Tiffany. How you’ve reached me and moved me.

I Shall Wear Midnight: “If you have let pride get the better of you, then you have already lost, but if you grab pride by the scruff of the neck and ride it like a stallion, then you may have already won.”

Tiffany Aching has made me a better, happier person. Oh, the power of words on a page.

Honorable Mentions:

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Pride and Joy (OG Runaways #1) by Brian Vaughan

Runaways, Vol. 1: Find Your Way Home by Rainbow Rowell

Plutona by Jeff Lemire

Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery by Aaron Sanders

Full Pictorial List:

books2018_6books2018_5books2018_4books2018_3books2018_2books2018_1

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One Zip Code Over From Where I Started

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My husband and children take in the Mt. Cutler hiking trail during a recent visit to Colorado Springs – I was there for business, but built in some family vacation before and after.

My phone is pretty old, in modern terms anyway. I’m multiple iphone generations behind. The new OS’s take more space and I have to comb through and dump or delete things to keep storage free. This constant review of my “data” as it were brings something into focus… beyond just, “I should probably upgrade my phone.”

In combing through my gallery tonight to make storage space, I realized that one month ago today I was leaving Austin to head into San Antonio. A week prior to that I was at NASA headquarters and then helping to run one of the largest space law specific conferences in the country – where we announced that we’d been awarded a NASA pilot program grant. Since then I’ve driven rural highways in Kansas, worked with students and attended the American Ballet Theater in New York City, and enjoyed the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I took my kids trick or treating this week. Tonight I read them 7 books and I rocked my baby girl while I sang to her. This month I’ll be in my place, showing students rural Nebraska and showcasing the critical telecom and broadband infrastructure that keep modern agriculture alive. In December I’m back to DC. In January I’m speaking in front of colleagues from law schools around the country in New Orleans. And so on. I’m always in motion. I visit Universities and military bases all over the U.S., and soon abroad.

I don’t “have it all.” That’s a cliche proverb by now, but I’m “having all of it.” Every last bit. Lately, when someone casually says “how is it going?” I’ve been responding, “I’m exhausted.” It is true, but it’s not complete. I’m taking a moment now to reflect on my infinite gratitude. My position has taken me all over this country in the past six years, but my thankfulness extends beyond travel. I’m having my life. I’m in the driver’s seat.

While in the Chicago airport I received an email that several of my co-workers at the law college had nominated me for an internal award for those who show dedicated service to building our institution; for dedication to our students and our mission. Our Dean, a leader who I respect and invests in his team, selected me from these nominations. Sitting in a dirty airport terminal on a Friday night, away from my kids, cleaning discarded gum off my bags (ugh), I had tears streaming down my face. They believe in me – because I believe in Nebraska.

The prairie is in my bones. I love where I am from, though I didn’t always. When I was 18 if you’d told me I’d be buying a house and raising my family just one zip code over from where I grew up I’d have been horrified. Foolish girl, bless her. She was impulsive, focused on fun and attention, and well, didn’t get into many schools. Nebraska held her. I found my undergraduate education at a small local liberal arts school. I could have left for law school, I got into several schools, but we didn’t. I had reasons, talking points, but I really couldn’t tell you why my husband (then fiance/boyfriend) and I didn’t take that opportunity to move. Educated here, living here, raising my kids here, the open horizon is just a part of who I am. My children are having a picturesque life, and I’m more than a little obsessed with their awesomeness.

I have a career that is growing and changing and taking me to places and opportunities I never anticipated. I’m sometimes restless, being human and all, and around that time some unusual and surprising thing comes along that keeps me engaged and growing where I’m planted.

Life isn’t perfect. I’m tired. I gained all my weight back from my last weight loss (shrug). I forget to do things. Emails sometimes go unanswered. I put my foot in my mouth almost daily. I drink too much cheap wine (see also; weight gain). I sacrifice things I don’t want to – I’m not the best friend, sister, daughter, wife, co-worker, or mother I know I could be if I could any one of things the attention it deserves. I absolutely miss events and important moments in my children’s life because I’m working (that one is the real knife in the gut).

But here it is – I’m having it all of it.

All of life. The excitement of professional growth. The deep bonds of building a family with a partner I cherish. The fulfillment of raising children… the patience and tolerance built from raising children. The ups the downs, the joy.

All of this, one zip code over from where I started. That, right now, is something I’m in awe of.

Space Force

A friend posted to my wall on Facebook yesterday shortly after Trump’s declaration of the creation of a Space Force at the Space Council meeting (primarily dedicated to space traffic managements move to Commerce) asking for my reaction. Since yesterday afternoon I’ve seen plenty of memes mocking the idea.

In quotes below is my response to my friend. My expertise is still developing and growing, but here are my two cents, mostly intending to simply clarify the need (and long-time existence) of security threats in space.

“Despite a lot of folks laughing at Trump thinking this sounds ridiculous, it’s actually not (this is not an endorsement of him, to be very clear on that key point), in fact it has been discussed for awhile. Also, know that we haven’t yet seen an actual directive, only the verbal announcement at the council meeting which most of us were watching for the space traffic management directive. Anyhow, back to the space force, for context, earlier this year the House and Senate’s proposals on space organization differed significantly this year: the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 called for the organization of a Space Corps by January 1, 2019 a proposal that was not adopted in the Senate version of the bill and which was opposed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Following that there has been significant (if not a bit predatory) criticism on the US Air Force’s handling of space and their procurement process. The USAF has too many friends in the senate to get something like this through there but this directive bypasses that. Related, lots of folks seem to think this is ridiculous and I admit “space force” sounds that way. But I urge people to keep in mind the entire satellite industry including our military space assets. This is a major part of our national infrastructure. In fact GPS satellites are responsible for validating every financial transaction happening electronically in the country. Security of both commercial and public sector assets in space is fundamental to our national security. Further, wars are already fought and space, not with space ships but via satellite nudging, jamming and interference – given the new tech it is a major part of the new war-fighting mission set. Personally I felt the US Air Force was up to the task with some new organizational planning but others obviously felt differently.”

To clarify one of my points above, the administration can’t entirely bypass congress. Trump will need Congress to rewrite Title 10 of the United States Code that specifies the roles and missions of the armed forces.

Boldly Go, Class of 2018

I can tell graduation is near. I enjoyed attending the Nebraska Law end-of-year alumni awards luncheon this afternoon and I’m looking forward to a dinner this evening with the amazing undergraduates in Political Science Intelligence Community Scholars program. I’m a sentimental dork, but indulge me. Each year we support students to the best of our ability. I, with many others, strive to provide opportunities for intellectual growth, real-world practical experiences, and for bonding and engagement with peers (future colleagues, y’all!) for all the students I work with. We can’t spend the time with each individual we wish we could but each year I get to know an amazing group of people – and each year yet another amazing group graduates. They each face successes and struggles in the years following their graduation, but whether they know it or not they’re constantly on my mind. It is truly a joy and privilege to engage in the world by training the legal workforce that supports innovative technology and serves our country.

As with the careers they will all go on to have, my own has bad days and good days, but I can always say this: I believe in what we do here. I believe the law must grow and adapt and legal education must reflect that. I believe the impact Nebraska alumni – undergrads to JDs to LLMs – have on the world makes it a better place.

I am so unbelievably proud to be a part of so many journeys.

Boldly Go, class of 2018. I’m cheering for you… but you should probably get back to studying because finals are next week and to my LL.M.s – one word.

Thesis.

Screaming For Quiet.

Ever have a day that was just profoundly bad on multiple fronts? Not personally tragic but just really, truly, ugly-cry in your office rough? Multiple insecurities rear their ugly heads, the world around you is depressing and hard, you can’t help but think that everyone else has their shit together so significantly better than you? That was two Wednesday’s ago for me.

I decided I needed a break from life. Yes, all of life besides my children and husband – I needed to focus on and be with them quite deeply. I took some vacation time (a luxury for which I am grateful) and decided: no email, no work calls, no social media, no training obsession (gasp!), hell, I deleted Pinterest. I needed a little wine, to go on a run because I wanted to not because I was obligated to, I watched some Broad City, I did yoga and half assed it but dug the stretches, I craved whole lot of reading and knitting (although night one I may have done the reverse order and had to re-knit 10 rows thanks to the wine). I needed to REST. Fully and completely rest. I hid from my “public professional online life” for four days. Since, I’m dabbling back in. No more Facebook or my office twitter on my phone. No more phone in my bedroom before/after bed. Just quiet time, alone with myself.

The bad news is this: I’m still super imperfect!

The good news is this: I always have been and I always will be!

I worry about money. I weigh too much. I think about my job 24/7. I yell at my kids sometimes. I’m a horrifically bad speller… the world is hurting and broken and people I love are scared.

I’m not building up to anything other than this: sometimes we’re not alright. It’s ok to not be alright. Bad days, weeks, months happen.

You’re not alone, and thankfully, neither am I.

My Big Fat Yoga Practice

When you think about people who do yoga 3 to 7 times a week some of the characteristics probably lineup with me: I own Uggs. I recycle. I talk about stuff like “self-care.” What you probably don’t imagine are people who weigh over 170 pounds (raises hand). I run, bike, or swim almost every day and I always fit in a little bit of yoga, but my body is still big, curved, soft, and all mine.

I became a runner about three years ago and lost about 80 pounds (which also coincided with a year and a half of breast-feeding my youngest child). Since then I’ve gained about 30 pounds back, but I’ve been maintaining this weight for about eight months now. I don’t love it and I miss my old pants, but I struggle with self discipline when it comes to food and, well, I probably need to do a lot more weight lifting. Here nor there, my life is busy as hell. The amount of exercise I already get in takes and an exhausting amount of self motivation. This might just be what my butt is going to look like for a while, guys.

So what does that have to do with my yoga practice? I stopped thinking about yoga as a workout and started thinking about it as “this fun thing I do.” I started – without meaning to – focusing on how good the stretches felt and how open my big ol’ body feels when I pour myself into my practice.

I often like to record my yoga so I can check my foundation on certain poses. I want to share some screen grabs of that for all of the other big, curvy, beautiful, Yogi mamas out there. Your body is perfect for yoga, right now, as it is.

Also, you may notice Saturn in the bottom left picture on that first collage. My kid was totally using the toilet in that picture. That is mom life y’all. You do yoga while your kid poops with the door open. Just lean into this life and remind yourself: you wanted this. Ha!

Lately, my time on the mat has nothing to do with getting the best ass, it is completely about laughing at myself and loving my myself for simply being there.

 

I do all my yoga at home with Yoga with Adriene or Comic Kids Yoga (both via YouTube) when the kids want in on the action.

Namaste y’all.

 

 

My Fellow Millennials, Cheers

26170643_870059737631_1385246405300429353_oMy New Years Eve post goes out to fellow millennials.

First, may we continue to take selfies because you know it drives them nuts (hashtag not sorry).

May we continue to work our asses off and enjoy the occasional avocado toast.

May we, as parents, professionals, students, and individuals build bridges, support our communities, look past failed political divisions, innovate our businesses, and put passion and people before profits. May we scorn debtors and push our future ourselves, paying our own way.

And to everyone, snarky generational commentary aside, remember that no year, be it this one or the one you were born in, may define you – only you can do that.

Cheers.

In 2018, do you. Authentically you. 

2018 Resolutions: Look up and pay attention.

There is no denying it. New Year’s Resolutions are cliché, but for some inexplicable reason they resonate with me. The cycle of the year holds power in my life. In particular, the past three years my resolutions have been very important to me. I have changed my life by becoming more active. I have applied myself intellectually and professionally in new, brave ways. I’ve always focused on pushing myself toward some new and great achievement. This year I’m competing in my first women’s sprint triathlon and will train for my fourth half marathon.

I’m proud of those things and they’re great goals (I’m a bit goal orientated if that wasn’t coming through) but in 2018 I want to focus on presence.

I spend a lot of time taking pictures of my kids. They’re adorable and hilarious and I’m ridiculously proud by every little thing they do. Then, after I get the perfect photo, I spend more time posting those pictures to Facebook and/or Instagram with my witty asides or commentary.

Any parents familiar with the following?

Parent: “Oh that’s so funny! Let me grab my phone!”

Kid: “Cheese!”

Parent: “Why are you smiling weird? Smile normal.”

Kid: “Cheese!”

Parent: “Got it! Oh look at that so cute!”

Kids: “Mom, let’s play! “

Parent: “Hold on I’m picking a filter.”

Kid: “Mom, can I play on your phone too?”

Parent: “No, hold on I’m almost done.”

Kid continues cute activity but disengages from parent.

I really hate this. I’m really, really not proud of this. But that? I do that more often than I’d like to admit.

Sometimes I’ll wait until later in the evening to post the pictures, but I’ll say it: I take a lot of photos with social media in mind. Not for the memory books and picture frames, but so I can find a good picture for posting. Ew.

My 2018 resolution is to stop posting pictures of my kids on social media.

I will not stop taking pictures all together. I want photos for our family to print, share, send to each other, and enjoy, but no more posting. I’ll still mention family moments and activities because my family is my world, but no photos of the kids. No more drafting the post – sometimes even spending time thinking about possible posts ahead of time – and putting off engaging in the moment.

I don’t want their family memories to be of mommy staring at her phone… and I am worried I have veered off in that direction.

It is my hope that removing the “showing them off” element of capturing moments in my children’s lives will make me more present the moment.

My resolution is NOT a commentary on other people’s posting habits or choices. You can post many adorable photos of your kids and still be a present, wonderful parent (to be clear, I also do not think I’m a bad parent). This is just something I want to try for myself. This is about me focusing on the present rather than the post.

My reason is not about privacy so much as presence. I’m not combing through and removing old pictures and my parents, my husband, and other friends and family will, I assume, still share some pictures. I’m all-good with that.

Truth be told when I think about not sharing their adorable Halloween costumes or their first day of school pictures it sends sad little pangs across my heart – but here is the deal – they won’t know the difference. For them Halloween will be exactly the same whether my friends from high school know what they wore or not. We do Halloween events for them, not for me and certainly not for LSE Class of 2003, so I need to suck it up.

So, sprint triathlon and half marathon aside, my 2018 goals? Look up and pay attention.

My Favorite Books of 2017

December 1 2017 | I set a goal of reading 50 books in 2017. I did it.. and then I read 7 more and I expect I’ll finish another 2 or 3. Like my 2016 post, I want to preface this with some information about me as a reader. I read mostly 300-500 page fiction, usually of the general narrative, fantasy, mystery, science fiction or romance variety. These books are my escape. I very rarely read 600+ page or non-fiction books. So before everyone is all “how do you have the time?!” know that I can polish off a 300 page romance novel in about 72 hours, reading it post my children’s bedtime. I also read a lot while traveling. I loathe airports and books absorb me, so I turn to them while flying. I usually knock back 2-3 books per trip. Also, I count graphic novel volumes as a book. I do not count individual comic books/issues.

New this year I included a few chapter books I started reading with our kindergartener at bedtime. Because I’m going to start including the books and graphic novels I read with him – and eventually our daughter – that are read in multiple sittings and are 100+ pages and I’m going to set my 2018 goal at 100 books!

Logistics aside, I want to share my favorites of the year and hope that others will share theirs! A full pictorial list of my current 56 is below too. The reviews here are mostly what I wrote on Goodreads directly after finishing the book. I figure those reviews are the most fresh and frankly, putting this together was enough work. I don’t have time for more in depth reviews, but always happy to talk about books!

As I mentioned, finishing my goal doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading until 2018, so please, join me on Goodreads and finish out 2017 with me!

Finally – SHOUTOUT LINCOLN CITY LIBRARIES! Only two books of my entire 50 were purchased. Thank you for being an important resource to me and my family.

In no particular order, my favorite books of 2017:


Written in Red (The Others #1)

by Anne Bishop
writteninredGood Reads Summary: As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others. Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

My Review: I read another “first book in a series” by Anne Bishop earlier this year. I believe it was her first published novel. I enjoyed it, but uffda it was overly complicated and the sexual overtones (in a book I would NOT consider a romance novel) were… awkward at best. Fast forward to her most recent series, “The Others” and this book. Over-complicated turned into detailed world building. Awkward sexual overtones turned into a slow building, interesting, character nuisance. These books (I’m currently already into the second one in the series) are slow paced, but well crafted. If you’re into fantasy, human v. fantasy storylines check these out. Great fiction.


Once Broken Faith + The Brightest Fell (October Daye #10 + #11)

by Seanan McGuire

toby2Once Broken Faith Goodreads Summary: Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches. Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.  Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe. As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save. Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

toby1The Brightest Fell Goodreads Summary: For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better. Maybe not.

Because suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors. Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option.

My Goodreads Review of the Brightest Fell: I loved this ending. I loved this leg of the story. This story feels like a transition so I can see how some felt this installment was boring or lacking, but it was clear. Darkness this way comes. Toby is no longer a novice, she’s all woman.

Blog Review: If you’ve talked to me about books in the past four years you’ve heard me scream READ SEANAN McGUIRE! You’ll note her name appear again on this list. The October Daye series has stolen my heart. Adventure. Silliness. Diversity. Extreme world building. Flawed but strong characters. These books are a joy and just get better and better.


The Quiet Child

by John Burley

quietchildGoodreads Summary: It’s the summer of 1954, and the residents of Cottonwood, California, are dying. At the center of it all is six-year-old Danny McCray, a strange and silent child the townspeople regard with fear and superstition, and who appears to bring illness and ruin to those around him. Even his own mother is plagued by a disease that is slowly consuming her. Sheriff Jim Kent, increasingly aware of the whispers and rumors surrounding the boy, has watched the people of his town suffer—and he worries someone might take drastic action to protect their loved ones. Then a stranger arrives, and Danny and his ten-year-old brother, Sean, go missing. In the search that follows, everyone is a suspect, and the consequences of finding the two brothers may be worse than not finding them at all.

My Goodreads Review: That book was… haunting? Comforting? I don’t know, but it’ll stick with me. Amazingly well crafted and I loved the shifting viewpoints.

Blog Review: I was right. I still don’t know if I even liked this book, but it’s still with me. I think of it often and consider.


North to the Orient
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Goodreads Summary: In 1931 Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh set off on a flight to the Orient by the Great Circle Route. The classic North to the Orient is the beautifully written account of the trip.

northMy Goodreads Review: Anne is witty and poetic in her writing. The antiquated terms are at times charming and at times jarring. Her descriptive paragraphs about viewing rivers generally from above was just beautiful. I was saddened by the last 20 or so pages and their account of the massive flooding in China. The horrifying situation was covered rather topically, which I found odd. She seemed somewhat disconnected from it.

I appreciated her humor in regards to the ridiculous questions she faced as a woman. I was curious too about how she felt about leaving her son and undertaking this journey as a parent. I got the impression to was common for women of means to leave children in the care of nannies, so perhaps she (oddly) faced less criticism for that decision then, than a modern mother would now.

 


Down Among the Sticks and Bones(Wayward Children #2)
by Seanan McGuire

sticksGoodreads Summary: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

 

My Review: Holy Shitballs. This discussion on the influence of parents and the theme of gender as an obligation is well crafted, remarkably intellectual, and delivered in a consumable and easy to grasp fantasy story. This is whimsical, but be warned it is also desperately sad. Also, a must read for parents in my view. The Wayward Children series is shaping up to be one of the best collections out there.


Witches Abroad (Discworld #12)
byTerry Pratchett

witchesGoodreads Summary: Be careful what you wish for… Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills—which unforunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it’s up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn’t marry the Prince. But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who’ll stop at nothing to achieve a proper “happy ending”—even if it means destroying a kingdom.
My Review: I love Pratchett but admit his quirky style is sometimes a bit exhausting for me to read – so I love the audiobook versions. Perfect. I feel like Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg are my constant companions. These books are so damn clever and fun. 


Ready Player One
byErnest Cline

playerGoodreads Summary: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
My Review: Is this a very tightly crafted story? No. It is a joyride for pop culture loving, 30-something nerds? Yes. I hope the movie doesn’t screw it up.

Paper Girls, Volumes 1 and 2 (Paper Girls #1)
by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang(Illustrator), Matthew Wilson(Illustrator)

paper1In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.
paper2My Review: Can I just stay up all night reading comic books? These make me want to.
I did not love Cliff Chiang’s artistic style in the Wonder Woman Blood/Guts/Iron/War/Flesh/Bones volumes/series, though it grew on me – but I am obsessed with his work in Paper Girls. Just swooned by it. It’s possibly retroactively making me like the wonder woman art more. Vaughn is great here too. I’ve heard that the story is too out there or confusing, but I’m loving it. Space and time travel with teenage paper deliver girls is (apparently) sort of my jam.

Everything Else:

To be fair there are a LOT of good books down here (and some shitty ones) but they can’t all be the MVPs

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Words For My Children

It’s rainy. I feel as though my life is in beautiful transition. Forgive me my sappiness.

Words For My Children:

Just like the rest of the world, you do not always bring out the best of me. I’m more patient now, which you likely can not believe. Yes, I was somehow even less patient than now. You’ve changed other things too.

My Maxwell, you’ve made me strong. My mother raised me as such, but you cemented it, drawing strength out of me from pits I didn’t know existed. You are my refuge from fear. You made it clear your first day on earth: there is nothing love can’t heal. Your arrival marked me as a warrior. You plant my feet to the ground.

Maxwell, I expect too much from you. I know that. But you, my little soul, are worthy of great expectations. You’re clever, sometimes too clever, and careful. You play and fall, sure, but you anticipate what is to come. You are made of emotion and passion. I hold you to high standards because your own standards are higher. Your heart is gentle and your mind is fierce. Your spirit is much like mine. I imagine you and I have shouting and arguments in our future, but know, please always know, you have my love unconditionally. Knowing you makes me better. Raising you makes me proud.

You’re creative too. I’m never quite sure what is happening in your mind, what story is unfolding. Embrace that son, even when I’m barking at you to get into the car faster because it is raining. I can’t promise I’ll stop being grumpy, but I can promise storytelling will always be worth your time.

My Eleanor. Oh, Eleanor. I call you little warrior because of your stubborn impulses and love of plastic weaponry, but there the title fades. You’re made of joy, and delight, and possibly kittens. You’re a playful and compassionate little being. Your grin shatters me into pieces of love and happiness that leave me incapable of coherent thought briefly. You get away with a lot. You call for me a lot, which I secretly love, though less so at three in the morning. I sometimes feel as though we have a secret language you and I. One made entirely of touch and smiles. You sink into me when we hug and snuggle.

You dance Elly Bear, oh how you bop about and jump and twirl. You bring the world light it desperately needs. You’re also confident. Your sense of self is more robust at two and half than mine at 32, but that is a gift you’ve been sharing.

You’ve taught me to love myself where I am, not a far off ideal. Watching you romp about discovering things made me stop putting off my joy. I find peace in everyday now. My hope for you is that you grow and change but always know yourself the way you do today.

Words for my children: Thank you.