Sunday, March 31, 2024

Life: It Goes On - March 31

Happy Easter to all who celebrate! We are having a quiet day at Chez Shep, having done what passed for our Easter celebration last weekend. Mini-him is off celebrating with Miss C's family, Miss H is working, and, of course, Mini-me and Ms S are far too far away to join us. It's just as well; there are so many things around here that need to be done, not the least of which is to finish up the taxes. Makes this grey, chilly day feel even less appealing! 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Let Us Descend and Life In Five Senses. I'm now back to The Guest which I need to finish in the next couple of days because I have both The Marriage Portrait and The Maid read to listen to in the next 14 days. 

Watched: So much college basketball. And the first episode of season one of Guy Ritchie's The Gentleman. If you've ever seen any of Ritchie's work, you'll already know that it's very violent and bloody. Not my usual thing but one of those things you end up watching because that's what your spouse turns on and you're too tired to get up and take yourself to bed. 

Read: Still American Daughters. I've spent a lot of my "reading" time listening to books because I had so many come ready at once. But now I find myself with books expiring on NetGalley and books to be returned to the library soon so I may just have to make time for both reading and listening this week. 

Made: Butterscotch cake with butterscotch syrup for dessert last night. Otherwise, I really have cooked much at all, as we've been working our way through last weekend's leftovers or eaten out. 

Enjoyed: Baseball Friday night with friends. The Omaha Stormchasers' (the Kansas City Royals' Triple A farm team) opened the season on a night that seemed like it would be relatively warm...and it was, until the wind came up and we bailed in the 10th inning. Last night, we had friends over for carryout pizza, a yummy salad they brought, and that cake. 
This Week I’m:  

Planning: Some decisions need to be made this week which will dictate on the rest of the week goes. 

Thinking About: A possible trip this summer. 

Feeling: This grey day has me battling a headache so everything I'm getting done is a real effort. 

Looking forward to: Miss H gets two of her wisdom teeth pulled on Wednesday so I'm going down to take care of her for a couple of days. Not that I'm looking forward to having her being in pain but I do love to embrace Mom mode. 

Question of the week: How's your bracket holding up? 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal

Saturday Night At The Lakeside Supper Club
by J. Ryan Stradal
Read by Aspen Vincent
9 hours, 20 minutes
Published April 2023 by Penguin Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
Mariel Prager needs a break. Her husband Ned is having an identity crisis, her spunky, beloved restaurant is bleeding money by the day, and her mother Florence is stubbornly refusing to leave the church where she's been holed up for more than a week. The Lakeside Supper Club has been in her family for decades, and while Mariel's grandmother embraced the business, seeing it as a saving grace, Florence never took to it. When Mariel inherited the restaurant, skipping Florence, it created a rift between mother and daughter that never quite healed. 

Ned is also an heir-to a chain of home-style diners-and while he doesn't have a head for business, he knows his family's chain could provide a better future than his wife's fading restaurant. In the aftermath of a devastating tragedy, Ned and Mariel lose almost everything they hold dear, and the hard-won victories of each family hang in the balance. With their dreams dashed, can one fractured family find a way to rebuild despite their losses, and will the Lakeside Supper Club be their salvation?

My Thoughts: 
This is my third book by Stradal and I've come to expect a few things from him that he, once again, delivered: 
  1. A multi-generational story.
  2. Well written female characters, always female leads which is impressive from a male writer. From Betty to Florence to Mariel to Julia, each of these women is fully developed, flaws and all. 
  3. A terrific sense of setting. Stradal knows the area, its people and its food. 
  4. Which brings me to food. Betty marries the owner of the Lakeside Supper Club, Mariel marries the son of a man who started a chain that is putting supper clubs out of business. The tradition of the foods at the supper clubs contrasts with the food of the chain; the traditional foods of the supper clubs also plays out against healthier, more current ways of eating. 
Each of Stradal's books changes in how he tells his stories. Here we move back and forth in time and in points of view. It should, in theory, help us to understand why certain characters become the people they become. It should also give us hints of things to come. It works, for the most part: but there are a couple of places where I really struggled with it. One is with Betty's character - although she seems to be a hard worker, early on, she is also constantly on the move, with morals that seem to waver. Yet, as soon as she meets Floyd, she happily settles and mends her immoral ways. We start knowing something about Mariel that makes a latter part of the book very painful to read (I can't tell you more without spoilers). Florence is an overly protective mother, to the point that she and Mariel are not close at all as adults, and yet she allows something to happen that is entirely out of character. Mariel's husband is meant to inherit the family business; but we know, early on, that he isn't the man for the job - his beloved sister, Carla is. Yet, once she takes over, she entirely disappears from Ned's life. 

I like the relationships between the generations, complicated as they were. And I appreciated that Stradal was able to surprise me, near the end, with something I never saw coming. I've been very satisfied with the endings of Stradal's other books but this one seemed rushed and not satisfying. Had it, perhaps, felt less rushed, it might have ended in the same way and not been as flat. All in all, despite author Roxane Gay called this "a perfect book," I feel like this book didn't live up to its potential. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Life: It Goes On - March 24

Happy Sunday! Just last week I was thinking that it always seems to be sunny on Sunday when I'm typing this up. Not today. We've had grey skies and colder temps for the past couple of days. I'm not a fan but it's to be expected in March, I suppose.  

It's been another busy week. My dad was not released from the hospital until Wednesday and then he moved into a different skilled rehabilitation facility. It's a much nicer facility, lovely room, great staff...and he thinks he might be able to be happy living there for the rest of his days. So we may be emptying his new apartment back out again and settling into what will, hopefully, be his forever home. I just want him to get stable, be safe and as happy as he can be, and be well cared for and then I can relax a little. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Dani Shapiro's Signal Fires and Emma Cline's The Guest

Watched: A whole lot of college basketball. 

Read: American Daughter by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. 

Made: French silk pie, strawberry pie, cheesy hash browns, seven-layer salad, ham - yep, we celebrated Easter this weekend. 

Enjoyed: My sister and her husband arrived Thursday evening and their son and his wife arrived Friday. They've all had a busy weekend, visiting parents/grandparents. It's been a relief to have my sister take on the care of my dad for a few days. Last night Mini-him and Miss C joined all of us for an Easter dinner. We've had fun evenings of talking, laughing and a few bottles of wine. But I don't think any of us took a single picture all weekend! 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Plans are fluid these days. I don't do as well when plans are fluid and it's part of the reason I've been so exhausted. We may begin moving some things over to the new place...or we may not. 

Thinking About: How many books I have that need to be read and wishing I could just take a couple of days off of work to spend doing nothing but reading. 

Feeling: Less physically and emotionally exhausted now that we've had some backup for a few days. I even took a two-hour nap this morning.

Looking forward to: Book club on Tuesday. 

Question of the week: Our holidays have certainly changed in the past few years and I'm missing the traditions. Any tips for how to create new traditions? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Pete and Alice In Maine by Caitlyn Shetterly

Pete and Alice In Maine
by Caitlyn Shetterly
256 pages
Published July 2023 by HarperCollins

Publisher's Summary: 
Reeling from a painful betrayal in her marriage as the Covid pandemic takes hold in New York City, Alice packs up her family and flees to their vacation home in Maine. She hopes to find sanctuary—from the uncertainties of the exploding pandemic and her faltering marriage. 

Putting distance between herself and the stresses and troubles of the city, Alice begins to feel safe and relieved. But the locals are far from friendly. Trapped and forced into quarantine by hostile neighbors, Alice sees the imprisoning structure of her life in this new predicament. Stripped down to the bare essentials of survival and tending to the needs of her two children, she can no longer ignore all the ways in which she feels limited and lost—lost in the big city, lost as a wife, lost as a mother, lost as a daughter and lost as a person. 

As the world shifts around her and the balance in her marriage tilts, Alice and her husband, Pete, are left to consider if what keeps their family safe is the same thing as what keeps their family together.

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books that I should have reviewed as soon as I finished it, while my thoughts were still fresh in my head...and I could really remember the details. So, as so often happens these days, this review will be brief. 

What Didn't Work For Me: 
  • The kids. For me, Iris is just too precocious and Sophie is just too angry and allowed to be too rude and mean.
  • Alice...sometimes. She seems terribly unhappy in her live even before the betrayal and the pandemic, but unwilling to do anything to make things better for herself. 
  • I've, thankfully, never been in Alice's position so I can't say how I would react. Still, I found myself irritated with her back and forth in regards to her feelings about Pete. On the other hand, again, I've never been in that position so it might be exactly the way I'd react. 
  • Although the entire book is built around needing to leave NYC because of the pandemic, it never seems to touch the family in any way and Alice never seems to be particularly concerned about the ways it's affecting others. 
What I Liked: 
  • I remember hearing about how many people with second homes left the cities in the early days of the pandemic, but this is the first book I've read that tackles how that might have worked for those people. I appreciated that Alice recognized their privilege. 
  • It took me back to those days when we lived in terrible fear of dying (well, at least a good chunk of the population did). It was easy to believe that the reactions of the local in the book mirrored what a lot of locals felt when the city people began moving into their communities, possibly bringing a deadly disease they might otherwise have avoided, into their neighborhood. 
  • Pete and Alice. They felt well developed, with both a lot to like about them but also plenty of flaws. 
  • I liked the writing, the intimacy of the story. I felt as if I really got to know these characters and got into their heads. 
  • The ending. I knew how I wanted the story to end (given what happens in the book), but Shetterly throws a curveball right at the end that entirely changes what will happen next. I do, almost always, like a book that ends without a clear ending. Life happens in segments that don't always come to neat and tidy endings before the next segment begins. That's what happens here and I like it a lot. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Life: It Goes On - March 17

Happy Sunday and happy St. Patrick's Day! We went downtown for dinner last night and the crazies who celebrate by getting drunk were already getting a jump on today. There was a lot of whooping and hollering already going on at 8 p.m.! 

It's been hard to believe that we were still in March, as nice as it's been lately; but for the next week, we're going to be reminded of that, with snow in the forecast again. Still, a girl can dream and I'll be heading off to buy new cushions for the patio furniture this week and I've created a shopping list for annuals and perennials. 

Spent a lot of the week working to get my dad into his new home on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Thursday night he was admitted to the hospital, again. We're hoping that this admission is actually solving some of the problems that have been going on for a while now. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Saturday Night at the Lakeside Club by J. Ryan Stradal. Will finish this one today then I think I'll be starting Dani Shapiro's Signal Fires

Watched: A lot of college basketball, a couple of episodes of The Crown, and a lot of cooking shows. 

Read: Still bouncing between Vanderbilt and Wandering Stars

Made: Shrimp scampi pasta, BLT salad, Rueben sandwiches. 

Enjoyed: Tuesday we went to see Disney's The Lion King and were so impressed with the staging, the costumes, and the puppetry. I do love musical theater! 

Last night we went out to our new favorite Mexican restaurant (it's no lie to say that I've been dreaming about their seafood combo since we went there the first time!) and followed up with drinks, laughs and lots of kvetching with friends at a local brew pub. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Plans are, as to be expected, a little up in the air at the moment. 

Thinking About: What to tackle next for 40 Bags in 40 Days - just 14 days left! 

Feeling: Honestly? Worn out. 

Looking forward to: Already looking forward to an Easter weekend visit from my sister, her husband, their son and his wife. 

Question of the week: Are you celebrating St. Patrick's Day in any way? 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics
by Tara Conklin
Read by Cassandra Campbell
12 hours, 14 minutes
Published February 2019 by HarperCollins Publishers

Publisher's Summary: 
In the spring of 1981, the young Skinner siblings — fierce Renee, dreamy Caroline, golden-boy Joe, and watchful Fiona — lose their father to a heart attack and their mother to a paralyzing depression, events that thrust them into a period they will later call “the Pause”. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the siblings navigate the dangers and resentments of the Pause to emerge fiercely loyal and deeply connected.

Two decades later, the Skinners find themselves again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they've made and what, exactly, they will do for love.

Narrated nearly a century later by the youngest sibling, the renowned poet Fiona Skinner, The Last Romantics spans a lifetime. It's a story of sex and affection, sacrifice and selfishness, deeply held principles and dashed expectations, a lost engagement ring, a squandered baseball scholarship, unsupervised summers at the neighborhood pond, and an iconic book of love poems. But most of all, it is the story of Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona: the ways they support each other, the ways they betray each other, and the ways they knit back together bonds they have fractured.

My Thoughts: 
The Last Romantics is a book about the things that tie a family together and the things that tear them apart, which makes me very glad to have chosen it as one of this year's book club selections. There's a lot to discuss here, including both the strengths and the weaknesses (in my opinion, of course) of the book. Let's get those (again, in my opinion) weaknesses out of the way first. 

The Weaknesses: 
  • Fiona works, for most of the book, for a climate watch group, which is all very well and good. Except that the book alternates between 100+-year-old Fiona telling a group of fans about her family history while outside it's clear that climate change has, indeed made a powerful impact on the Earth. Except that's not really touched on all that much and it doesn't really impact that story in any way. It could have been left out or incorporated more. 
  • So the entire reason for Fiona to tell the audience her family's story is to explain to them who the "Luna" that appears in her most famous poem was to her family. We finally get to that point late in the book and then I felt like we got bogged down in that piece of the story. I wanted the story to be about the siblings and not veer off into Luna's story; and then I found the girls' obsession with finding Luna very strange and unlikely. 
The Strengths: 
  • I do love me a good story about siblings - about their relationships with each other and about who each of them are in their own lives. 
  • These are particularly strong characters. While Fiona is clearly the main character of the book, each of her siblings are well-developed and any one of them stands on their own. We can clearly see how the young child they were grew into the adults they became and how The Pause impacted that growth. 
  • There are a lot of themes explored in the book and they never feel forced. 
  • I very much liked the way Conklin tied up the book. You all know I enjoy a book that doesn't necessarily tie everything neatly with a bow at the end. 
I'm so looking forward to hearing what my book club members think of this one! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen
First published in 1814
About 500 pages, depending on the edition

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle's absence in Antigua, the Crawford's arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen's first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.

My Thoughts: 
I picked this for my book club's classic book for 2024. To say that it was not a hit would be a massive understatement. This is a well-read group of ladies and I have thrown a lot of different things at them over the years, but the lesson here is that 500 pages of early 19th century sensibility, with a lot of dialogue but not a lot of action, doesn't work for these ladies. But this book doesn't work for a lot of people for exactly the same reasons my book club didn't enjoy it. 

Fanny Price is not the same kind of heroine that Austen's readers are more familiar with - she is quiet, physically weak, and lets people run all over her. In her defense, she was thrown into a situation at ten-years-old where it was made clear to her that she was inferior to her cousins, entirely dependent on her uncle's largesse, likely suffered from indoor allergies, and was treated as little more than a servant by so many in her family. Her one and only true ally was cousin Edmund, a young man who grew up knowing that he would become a member of the clergy; the two of them, probably rightly so, tended to the higher ground. We do at least see Edmund nearly fall prey to Mary Crawford and Fanny finally stand up for herself when she refuses Henry Crawford, despite the risk to herself. 

Austen isn't without social commentary in Mansfield Park. Because of the Bertram's holdings in Antigua, Austen does touch on slavery. We look at the huge imbalance of wealth and the cost to all involved. Fanny's family is so poor that they must send Fanny away to live elsewhere and her brother goes into the Navy at a very young age to earn his way while the Bertram girls grow up knowing that they will be required to marry well, regardless of warmth of affection or intelligence. Fanny's aunt Bertram is indolent while her Aunt Norris is forced to prove herself worthy of Sir Bertram's continuing support. 

For me, Mansfield Park was a reread, but I will admit that it's a slow read. The satire is not as striking and there is not as much outright humor as there is in others of Austen's books. And the ending is, in my opinion, not quite up to snuff. We have spent hundreds of pages being shown what was happening in Fanny's world only to be told what happens and how we should feel about it. We are meant to dislike Henry Crawford very much in the end (although his character may have grown the most throughout the book, thanks to Fanny) and meant to believe that Fanny and Edmund were always meant to be together. But Austen could easily have let Henry become the man Fanny seemed to believe her was becoming (a man who sees a better way, much like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice). But Austen, who was writing in the time of broad Gothic romance, seemed to have preferred to steer away from that. It would have made a more interesting ending. Although, let's be honest, we would not have gotten to see Maria Bertram Rushworth get the ending she deserved. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Life: It Goes On - March 10

Happy Sunday! What is it about Sundays for that past few months that they are almost always sunny as I'm typing these posts? Sunny and we're climbing back up into the warmth, after some chilly days and a little snow that reminded us that this is still Nebraska in March and we shouldn't be getting too eager for spring just yet. Of course, the arrival of daylight savings time makes it feel even more like spring is just around the corner. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Tara Conklin's The Last Romantics. Nothing I had on hold was going to be ready for a couple of more weeks, so I had to find something to listen to in the interim. In classic Lisa fashion, I've checked out three audiobooks, at least one of which is go back unread when I run out of time. The question is, which if these should I listen to first? 

 Again, lots of basketball. 

Read: Still working on Anderson Cooper's Vanderbilt. Just haven't had much time (or ability to focus) to sit down and read. 

Made: Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, the leftovers of which we've used to make Cuban sandwiches, and Monte Cristo sandwiches, the first time (but not the last!) I've ever had them. 

Enjoyed: My brother and sister-in-law made a last-minute, 36-hour trip up to see my dad and help get his things moved into his new assisted living apartment. Let me tell you, if you want something done, have my sister-in-law help. The woman is tireless, a real problem solver, and will do whatever needs to be done. There are a couple of small things still to be done and all of the things to hang on the walls, but his place otherwise went from empty on Friday at 4 p.m. to fully settled by 2 p.m. today. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: The first few days of this week will be all about getting my dad into the new place with meetings tomorrow, Tuesday and the move on Wednesday. Then it's back to continuing the decluttering of my house! I did get another load to the Goodwill on Friday. Every time I fill my car up again, I feel a weight lifted. 

Thinking About: A long weekend getaway. Or at least a quick trip to KC to see Miss H. 

Feeling: Tired - mentally and physically. Moving is not for the faint of heart, even when you have great help, a good plan, and you use movers (although they were supposed to unpack and then couldn't). 

Looking forward to: The Big Guy and I are off to see The Lion King on Tuesday. Not the best timing but it will be nice to do something that completely takes my mind off of the things that need to be done for a couple of hours. 

Question of the week: How do you feel about daylight savings time? If you hate it, is it just the change over or do you not like it for the entire time we're in it? I love the long evenings of sunshine so much, that I'm willing to have my sleep schedule disturbed a little for a few days to have those long days. 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond Productivity Culture by Jenny Odell

Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond Productivity Culture
by Jenny Odell
Read by Kristen Sith
11 hours, 27 minutes
Published March 2023 by Random House Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: In her first book, How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell wrote about the importance of disconnecting from the “attention economy” to spend time in quiet contemplation. But what if you don’t have time to spend?

In order to answer this seemingly simple question, Odell took a deep dive into the fundamental structure of our society and found that the clock we live by was built for profit, not people. This is why our lives, even in leisure, have come to seem like a series of moments to be bought, sold, and processed ever more efficiently. Odell shows us how our painful relationship to time is inextricably connected not only to persisting social inequities but to the climate crisis, existential dread, and a lethal fatalism.

This dazzling, subversive, and deeply hopeful book offers us different ways to experience time—inspired by pre-industrial cultures, ecological cues, and geological timescales—that can bring within reach a more humane, responsive way of living. As planet-bound animals, we live inside shortening and lengthening days alongside gardens growing, birds migrating, and cliffs eroding; the stretchy quality of waiting and desire; the way the present may suddenly feel marbled with childhood memory; the slow but sure procession of a pregnancy; the time it takes to heal from injuries. Odell urges us to become stewards of these different rhythms of life in which time is not reducible to standardized units and instead forms the very medium of possibility.

Saving Time tugs at the seams of reality as we know it—the way we experience time itself—and rearranges it, imagining a world not centered on work, the office clock, or the profit motive. If we can “save” time by imagining a life, identity, and source of meaning outside these things, time might also save us.

My Thoughts: 
We tend to think of time as a constant, an inexorable movement forward, marked by the clock or calendar as we know it and we live our lives accordingly. It's six a.m. so it's time to get out of bed, it's 5 p.m. so it's time to leave work, the show starts at 7 p.m., your appointment is at 10 a.m. It's Monday so we have to go to work, it's Sunday so some of us will be going to church. We all work on the same clock and calendar so we can agree what time we should be places, what day we'll go to dinner with friends, when our library books are due.  

Except that we are also aware that even that way to mark time isn't always exact. It's 11 a.m. as I'm writing this in Nebraska, but it's 8 a.m. where my son lives. Easter falls on a different Sunday every year; the official Memorial Day will fall on a different day of the week every sixth year but the day we observe it will be a different date from year to year; Thanksgiving will always be the last Thursday of November but the date will change. Each of us ages slightly differently, even if we were born at the exact same time, place, and date. 

Odell wants us to be aware that there are a lot of other ways to mark time, that time, as we mark it, has been largely dictated by economic factors and can impact different races differently, and that even climate change is impacting time. 

We have, in our culture, 4 seasons. But, while the official start of each of those seasons may be the same date every year, the reality is that the seasons begin at only approximately the same time every year. Other cultures have entirely different seasons; they might consider that spring has arrived here because the temperature and plant growth say it has, even though a set date has not arrived. 

We sell our time to employers, in exchange for the things we need to live. Employers have evolved ever greater ways to get more work out of us for as little cost to them as possible. In Amazon fulfillment centers, every task has a set amount of time for it to be completed and every moment of a worker's day is tracked. UPS has an exacting route for their trucks, maximizing right turns and traffic lights. Very few employers look at ways to increase productivity by creating down time within the work day.

We've been convinced, by "experts" that there are ways we can more efficiently use our time outside of work, experts Odell calls "productivity bros." If you get up at five, instead of six, you can find time to exercise, for example. Never mind that you'll have to give up something on the other end of the day in order not to lose sleep. 

Even our so-called leisure time has become more structured and work like. This blog, for example. When I began it in 2013, I did it to track my reading and to connect with others. But the longer I did it, the more I got caught up in the idea that I needed to do things that would increase traffic to my blog; I felt like I needed to read at least two books a week so that I had plenty of reviews and have a new blog post up five-six times a week. My parents recognized it for the work it had become, but I insisted it was for fun because it was something I was choosing to do. Except that it wasn't fun any more; the blog had become a second job, a job that took up time I could have been doing things I'd have preferred to be doing. 

Odell presents so many different ways to view and think about time. So many, in fact, and so in depth, that it often became difficult for me to stay focused or understand how this all tied into the larger subject. What I was looking for, more than a way to see time differently, was a way to help myself quit marking time, find ways to ignore the clock, to fully relax and quite worrying so much about what needs to be done. I learned a lot in this book, but I didn't learn that. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
by Shauna Niequist 
Read by Shauna Niequist
4 hours, 44 minutes
Published August 2016 by Zondervan

Publisher's Summary: 
A few years ago, Shauna found herself exhausted and isolated, her soul and body sick. She was tired of being tired and burned out on busy. It seemed like almost everyone she talked to was in the same boat: longing for connection, meaning, and depth, but settling for busy.

But then something changed. She decided to trade the hustle and bustle for grace, love, stillness, and play, and it changed everything. Shauna offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people who matter most to us.

As you witness Shauna's journey, you'll be inspired to embark on one of your own. She gives you the encouragement you need to:

Put an end to people-pleasing tendencies
Embrace moments of simplicity, quiet, and stillness
Accept that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy

Written in Shauna's warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.

My Thoughts: 
One of my coworkers is going through very similar situations with some family members as I have been going through with my dad and through the same work environment. We've had a lot of conversations about the mental, and even physical, toll it has taken on us. She is also a big reader so we often exchange book recommendations. I have never disagreed with her about any book she has recommended to me (although she was not a fan of Lone Women, which she learned about from me; but, in my defense, I told her I liked it but I did not recommend it as something she might like!). So when she came into work one day, excited about this book and already putting Niequist's recommendations into practice, I immediately requested it from the library. 

One thing I immediately realized was that Niequist leaned heavily into her religious beliefs through her journey. I am no longer what I would call "religious;" rather I would say that I am "spiritual." So I did have to adapt what Niequist was suggesting regarding prayer and turning things over to God into something that I could relate to and use in my own way. In some places, that was harder to do than others. Those of you who are religious will find that Niequist recommends what so many others have done - turn your life over to your god and believe that they will create that outcomes that are right for you. For me, that means acknowledging that some things are simply out of my hands and that my higher power will be there for me regardless of the outcome. 

Niequist has a lot of famous friends, Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle among them. As I'm fans of both of those folks, their praise of Niequist makes me appreciate that her ideas might just work for me. Saying "no." Cancelling when you need to do so. Making your life easier.

I'd like to tell you that, when I was finished, I stopped worrying about how clean or cluttered my house is and just decided that I would learn to live with what I could do with the time and energy that I have after I've done the things that have to be done. I haven't. But I have given myself permission to not do things simply out of guilt or a need to prove myself worthy of love and respect (ok, I'm doing that some of the time; it's a work in progress). One day that may mean the end of this blog. It's work to keep up and I'm not getting the interaction I used to get out of it (that's on me as much as anyone but it's a fact) which makes it less fun than it once was. I may even learn to say "no" to my kids one of these days.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Life: It Goes On - March 3

Happy Sunday! What is it about Sundays that so often when I sit down to type this the sun is shining? To be fair, most days lately have been sunny...and warm! We had one very cold day last week but I can handle that as we move closer and closer to spring. My mind is already thinking about how I want to arrange furniture on the patio, what pieces I may get rid of, what pieces I may paint...and the flowers I want to plant, of course! I know that I should be living in the present but thinking about spring is the only way I survive winter. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Gretchen Rubin's Life In Five Senses. As so often happens to me when I listen to Rubin's podcast or read one of her books, I learn a lot and I'm inspired. I'm now pondering a project of my own to explore the five major senses. 

Watched: A lot of college and high school basketball (it's state tournament time here) and the final episode of Ted Lasso. The Big Guy and I are both so sad to be finished with it; it's so well written. But we've agreed that it's a series we'll probably rewatch. 

 Pete and Alice In Maine by Caitlyn Shetterly. 

Made: I cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday which resulted in BG and I making turkey enchiladas, smashed potatoes, and apple crisp. BG has been doing a lot of the grocery shopping in the past few years but he tends to pick up things we regularly use without checking to see if we actually need them. Hence, we end up with more apples that we could use in the next week, potatoes that need to be used soon, and two heads of broccoli (soup coming up this week!). 

Enjoyed: Dinner out with friends to celebrate his birthday. BG and he have been friends since they were 14; they were dating when she introduced me to BG. Which is to say that we have been through a lot together and always have a lot to talk about. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: More decluttering here and getting things moving to get my dad moved into assisted living in a couple of weeks. 

Thinking About: Risking jinxing things and going ahead and taking down the winter decor and putting out the Easter things. 

Feeling: Like we might just have done a good job as parents. Last night Miss H sent me a screen shot off her phone of my three kids, Ms S, Ms C, and my nephew all having a FaceTime evening together. We may  have done a lot of things wrong, but we did raise kids that are friends as adults and I'm convinced, now more than ever, that is vital to a happier life. 

Looking forward to: My brother will be coming up some time in the next couple of weeks and my sister is coming for Easter. 

Question of the week: Are you looking forward to spring or are you a winter lover?