I Found the Perfect One

I’m not talking about a man today (unfortunately) … instead it’s a pew at my parish. (I talked about why I love them before.) Changing the topic from husbands and singleness over here to talk about church pews. I mean, the things cradle Catholics think about during all that time at Church! So what makes a pew the perfect one?

I can see both the priest and the tabernacle!
The best seat of this pew is in the middle, not the end, so there’s room for someone to join me! I wrote about this before.
We have super long pews at my parish, but this spot has a short kneeler!
There’s a special spot for my purse in the corner!
There’s enough room to stand!
It has a clear marker to signal that it’s ‘my pew’ when I’m coming back from communion (we’ve got a lot of long pews at my parish, so this is pretty key! It’s the last ‘long pew’ before the spot for a wheel chair.

So, I’ve found it. It took me 8 years and a sanctuary renovation, but I did it. It might be the only perfect thing I find in my life that works all of the time! Sometimes there’s even a nice boy who sits right to the left of me who doesn’t wear a wedding ring … so time will tell if this pew choice is good for more than just seeing everything for the whole Mass!

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Don’t Forget

Today’s Reading: Psalm 78:3 AND 4BC, 6C-7, 8

Photo by Will Shirley on Unsplash

They say that “an elephant never forgets.” But I do forget, a lot!

Today’s psalm response is “Do not forget the works of the Lord.”

When I’m having a frustrating day, I forget how patient the Lord is with me.

When I’m upset because something else is going wrong, I forget how good the Lord is to me.

When a family member is suffering, I forget about all of the times the Lord has healed in the past.

When I can’t figure something out, I forget all of the things the Lord has taught me.

I am always forgetting the works of the Lord.

So why is it important to “remember the works of the Lord”? It’s important because we will always experience suffering in the world. We will always have unanswered prayers. We will always desire to be closer than we are to the Lord. We will always have frustrating, angry, impatient moments in our lives.

There will always be times of trial, so we need to remember what the Lord has done to ensure that we continue to turn to Him in times of need.

We need to remember the times on the mountaintop when we’re sitting in the valley. We need to remember the joy we’ve experienced in the midst of sorrow. We need to remember His hope in the midst of our despair.

Remember the works of the Lord. Remember the goodness of God. Remember the glory of the His Resurrection. Remember the feeling of His Spirit in your soul. Remember.

This first appeared on Carpeverbum.org today.

What I Read … December 2018 Edition

This month I finished a lot of books that I’ve been reading throughout the entire year. So within the first 5 days of December, I finished 6 books … only one of them was from start to finish. December is my time for reading sweet Christmas love stories, you know the ones, where the magic of Christmas brings everyone a happy ending. I can’t help it! I got a lot of recommendations from this site and promptly added them all to my library holds list. Many of them were really good, one went back to the library after 20 pages. You can’t win them all – but as Anne Bogel says, “Life’s too short to read bad books.” (unless your book club is making you or work is forcing you too…)

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown: As you know I’m a huge Brené Brown fan. She’s transformed my life quite a bit and this book is one of her best yet. It takes a lot of the great concepts from her previous works and puts them into one place. I appreciated that!

It’s Ok to Start with You by Julia Marie Hogan: I wrote about my quest to get better at self-care a few weeks ago, and this book was my catalyst for doing so. A friend and I did this as a buddy read, and I’m glad we did. It dug up a few things that I need to work on (dismissing my inner critic, seeing my worth), and I am working on them.

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish: This was our December book club pick. We chose it because it sounded interesting, and by the end of it, I was interested. The first half to two-thirds was really slow for me. The writing is very flowery and excessive in parts. I also don’t know how much I appreciated them diving in to what Annie would be thinking at this moment. I’m not sure we go to know Annie as much as we got to know what her friends think of her. And after someone passes, we always glorify everything that they did and look back with rose colored glasses. I’m not advocating for being mean about the dead … but when I pass, don’t set my faults on a pedestal and worship them (not for very long anyway). But the last third was great, tears in my eyes while reading in public great!

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah: I listened to this on audio and it was great! Trevor reads it, which I always appreciate a memoir being read by the author. His life in South Africa was nuts. His mother’s life was even crazier – and there were some parts that make me just so angry I couldn’t help but yell while driving down the road. The only thing I missed was how he got here and is now the host of The Daily Show. The book seems to end before that really begins.

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat: It took me a year to read this book. It is really good, but really deep and sometimes way over my head. I tried to just read a few pages a night – but then other books keep coming up as more interesting for me so I would put it down for months at a time. I finally made it my weekly resolution to just finish and that I did.

Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser: I am in the process of being certified as a CIQ (Conversational Intelligence) Coach. During the process, Judith was the person presenting and she lost her battled with pancreatic cancer. There are a lot of things I find fascinating about her, and there are also many that I just do not get. I won’t get into them here – but this book and the science behind it pair nicely with Dare To Lead.

Christmas at the Chalet by Anita Hughes: Felicity, the main character, of this book is quite annoying. She doesn’t realize that her spending one-on-one time with a handsome doctor is going to be perceived as cheating on her boyfriend (who is lame and refuses to propose to her, but that’s beside the point). A sweet Christmas read with an annoying lead. Also the next most important character is also super annoying … at least she’s not cheating on her fiancé, so there’s that. I also don’t have a fascination with fashion, so the beautiful dress descriptions are kind of lost of me … I’m not sure I know what all of those words mean. If I had a picture, then it would be a different story!

Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber: I’m falling in love with all of Debbie’s books and think I just might need to reserve them all from the library and make finishing all of her books one of my 2019 goals. Sweet love stories, not racy (but still romantic), great writing, and easy reading. This is her most recent release and it was delightful!

Christmas Camp: A Novel (Christmas Camp #1) by Karen Schaler: And here continues my sweet Christmas stories … just seeing now that this is a series, so I can’t wait to read the next one, presumably next Christmas. A sweet story about a widower who runs 10 weeks of Christmas Camp every year that is intended to turn grinches into santas by the end! Of course a woman who hates Christmas is forced to attend by her boss, meets a handsome man, and then falls in love with both him and Christmas (surprised?).

Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis: I spent 2018 listening to David and Matt talk about this book chapter by chapter, week by week. I slowly fell in love with Jack, and one of the hosts if we’re being honest – so I felt it was time to actually read the book. So my book friends at work and I read it as our December read. It was fantastic and I wish my book darts had come in before I started reading because there are a lot of dog-eared pages from this book.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling: This is a re-read for me, and I’m listening to it on audio this time around. I originally picked it up because the title is something I say all of the time. Why not me to be getting married this year? Why not me to have a few kids? Why not me for that promotion? And the truth of it is that the question is pretty foolish. There are a lot of things that I love about Mindy and her brand – and there are a lot of things I’m not that into. This book was filled with both of those things.

Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #13) by Louise Penny: Another homerun from Louise Penny! I’ve read the whole series now and can’t wait for the most recent one to come up on my holds list (I started at #234 I think and now I’m about #115, so a little bit of time to go…). This is a great series that absolutely has to be read in order. You’ll miss so much of the character development and story line if you hop around or begin at the end. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but it is mine – and this is my blog and my reading recommendation, so there!

Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber: Another book by Debbie – this one being her 2018 Christmas release. Super sweet, delightful, and left me wanting more.

The Adults by Caroline Hulse: Okay, not amazing – but a fine read. No better or worse for having read it. Also I think the most ‘adult’ person in the book was the seven year old child!

Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane (Honeymoon Harbor #2) by JoAnn Ross: Another sweet Christmas read that was a tad bit racy – probably a PG-13 romance story. There were a lot this season – but that’s probably because I got that list from someone who loves romances that are more racy than I typically prefer. I did love it though and proceeded to reserve #1 in the series to read next (see below).

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan: This is my 3rd Kelly Corrigan book this year, and I loved listening to it from her voice. It’s the story of her time in her early 20s when she was the nanny for a family who lost the wife/mother earlier that year. They are in Australia. It was good, and insightful. Also I think I’m probably going to be the glue in any future relationship rather than the glitter. You’ll have to read to book to get what that means!

Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot #10) by Agatha Christie, Dan Stevens (Narrator): This is my first Agatha Christie book ever! I can’t even believe that. Another one will be my first book of 2019 that I’m going to start reading as soon as I finish this post. I listened to this on my way to PA for Christmas. It was great! I didn’t realize it was part of a series, but I don’t think I’m going to run out and get the others.

Sin Bravely: My Great Escape from Evangelical Hell by Maggie Rowe: I’m not sure where I got this recommendation, but I’m glad I read it. I’m not recommending it though. I appreciated that it was an exploration of mental health and Christianity – which is why I started reading. However, I would venture to say that the Christianity everyone tells the author about is ridiculous and not at all what I live out as a Christian. An interesting perspective to say the least.

Herons Landing (Honeymoon Harbor #1) by JoAnn Ross: Loved the first book in the series and am excited about the coming books in this series. I predict that each of the brothers will be married off throughout the series – but I’ll still read them because they are delightful!

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: Not sure where I got this recommendation, but about 2/3rds of the way through I sent a friend a note saying that the only reason I was continuing to listen was because I was 9 hours into a 10.5 hour drive. Right after that the book got good. Still not sure I’d recommend it – but I’m glad I listened. I appreciated the perspective into a life that is very different than mine.

Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah: A sweet book, and yes predictable as a blogger I read today said – but aren’t all of the Christmas books predictable? Aren’t most books? I mean, there are really only a few story lines that can be told – but the way it is told is the reason to continue to read!

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan: Yes a Christmas romance – but more than that it’s a story of how a family thrives after tragedy. This was a good read, and I hope there’s more from Sarah about these sisters!

Christmas on Main Street (Shelter Bay #6.5) by JoAnn Ross, Susan Donovan, Luann McLane, Alexis Morgan: Sweet, some a little too racy (again, gotta remember the source of the recommendation), the 3rd one was super sweet and worth the whole read.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: This book reinforces the idea that if the boy is mean to you it means he actually likes you. And that’s celebrated! It’s so ridiculous! It was a fast read, but I wouldn’t recommend.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul: This book of essays was enlightening. I learned a lot about immigrants, Indian culture, and life as a brown girl. Things I know nothing about. I really appreciated it.

Totus Tuus: A Consecration to Jesus Through Mary with Blessed John Paul II by Brian McMaster: Each year for Advent I do the 33 day consecration renewal, and this was this year’s book choice for the reflections. This was one of the best consecration preparations I’ve read, I really liked it!

Well, that’s 26 books this month and brings my 2018 total to 210. I’m 120% of my goal of 175 books. I can’t believe it, not really – that’s a lot of books. Also, December was my best reading month of the year. Quite a delight to be honest. Sharing my reading goals for 2019 tomorrow so come on back! Catch up on previous editions of “what I read”: 
JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober, and November.

Recovering Perfectionist Striving for Perfection

A few weeks ago I listened to The Eagle and Child podcast about the chapter from Mere Christianity regarding how “we should be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.”

Neither the Lord nor C.S. Lewis are encouraging us to be perfect like we think of perfectionism. I would wear my perfectionism like a badge of honor – “I’m not picky, I just want it to be done right” or “Don’t mind me, I’m a perfectionist that’s why I’m spending hours making these look exactly correct” or “Sorry, my perfectionism is showing (while scoffing and thinking, ‘how could you not notice that this was an issue?).”

None of that is healthy. That’s actually the opposite of what the Lord is calling us toward. I love my gal Brené Brown had some great things to say about perfection in her latest book Dare to Lead. Some notes from her book on perfectionism:

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence.

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is other-focused: What will people think?

Perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a function of shame.

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary through: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame.

Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal. Perfectionism is more about perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy we spend trying.

Perfectionism is addictive, because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to look and do everything just right.

Perfectionism actually sets us up to feel shame, judgement, and blame, which then leads to even more shame and self-blame: It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.

Dare to Lead, pg 79-80

The Lord is calling us to “strive for excellence” and to “be more than we are.” Lewis writes that he would avoid telling his mom about a tooth ache until it became unbearable because he didn’t want to go to the dentist. He writes, “And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had no yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs like, if you gave them an inch they took an ell.” (MC, pg 201-202)

It’s the same with the Lord. If I go to Him and ask for grace to stop judging the intentions of the people I work with, He starts rooting out all judgments of family, friends, neighbors, strangers, co-workers – and then wants me to also act charitably toward them! If you open the door an inch, He wants to push the whole way in. Definitely true! (and needed)

The other thing that got me thinking in this chapter was how the Lord answers prayers that help us become more like Him. He is perfect – we’re striving to be like Him – therefore we should be asking for the grace to work toward perfection.

The last paragraph of this chapter is so good, I’m going to quote it in full.

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

Mere Christianity, pg 205-206

So what does that mean for this recovering perfectionist? I’m committing to striving for holiness, looking to be the best version of myself. I’ve taken on as my two core values to be kind and generous. Focusing on others and not so much on myself makes me a better person, a better Christian, and a better imitation of Our Lord and all the Saints.

It helps me be perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect, but not worried about how I’ll be seen. I spend a lot of time worrying about what people will think, when the truth is (as Rachel Hollis’ therapist says), “what other people think of you is none of your business.” That’s not to say you can just do whatever the heck you want all the time and it doesn’t matter. It’s to say that if you’re striving for holiness and doing what the Lord is calling you to do, then what other people think doesn’t matter. What the Lord thinks is what matters!

If you don’t like my jeans, that Christmas ornament I made, the colors in my home, or my cooking – as long as it was done with kindness and generosity and I was seeking to share the goodness of the Lord with you – you’re opinion is none of my business.

You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

yup, sounds about like my night

So a year or ago I talked with a matchmaker and it wasn’t for me. Mostly it was just expensive, and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on the service. I found another company where you could be in their database for free to be someone they choose from for dates for their paying customers. I joined last Thanksgiving and was called twice in the past year.

The whole purpose of their service is to do the hard work of finding someone who meets your basic criteria, checks off your non-negotiables, and then sets up the date for you. All you do is show up and be your charming self. They even tell you not to talk about the service, how you met, online dating, or past relationships on the first date. Just enjoy yourself, lean in, and ask deep questions to get to know this person. You already know that you’re a good basic match for one another.

The first guy didn’t meet my criteria for age (he was almost two decades older than me), so we didn’t end up going out. Since I’m not paying for their services, I didn’t hold my breath for another date. Then I got a call back in early November about another guy. He’s evangelical, looking for a partner in life, someone who wants him to be the “spiritual leader of his household,” about his age (he’s 37), financially independent, and interested in adventure.

Sounds good. Now I know I’ve said before, “He’s got to be Catholic.” I do mean that – but have you see the pool of available Catholic men lately? It’s shallower than the baby pool in a hamster’s paradise! It’s also filled with a lot of algae and bottom feeders … okay, that was uncharitable – but seriously. I’ve been searching for them in my eHarmony matches and it’s not a wide pool of people. So, I said “sure, let’s set something up.”

We ended up having to put a pause on it because of something that came up with him – but last week the matchmaker texted and asked when I might be available. Things were set up for Tuesday (tonight) – great! Where? Amelie’s … the cutest French Bakery in NoDa. I’ve been there maybe a hundred times (at least) and they have the most amazing desserts.

I spent two nights losing sleep with anxiety for this date. Will he be attracted to me? Will he like me? Am I putting too much pressure on how we look? Will we have good conversation? What will I ask him that’s not job or weather related? Will I have anything interesting to say? (We know I always have something to say!) Hours of sleep (although I did finish this book, which was just delightful) that I lost over the past two nights! HOURS of laying awake anxious in bed!

Then I spent time getting ready tonight, I brought my A GAME! I was ready to just be my amazing self (humble much Katie?) and have a good night of conversation. Worst case scenario was we weren’t interested in each other but had a cup of tea/coffee and a delightful dessert and went our separate ways, never to see one another again. Best case, it would be the beginning of a life altering relationship! But either way, no loss.

Turns out that’s not the worst case scenario. We didn’t even get dessert. I MEAN, SERIOUSLY? WE WENT TO AMELIE’S AND DIDN’T GET A DESSERT! I should go to confession because that’s a mortal sin! (Well, not technically, according to the catechism, but I’ll work on a letter for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and see if I can get that rectified! Their desserts are amazing, beautiful, delightful, and the stuff dreams are made of!)

When I arrived, he was already there – good sign! He was handsome and waiting at the meeting place (we only knew fist names and what color each other was wearing beforehand). He asked if I wanted to get a drink – he was going to have a coffee and I got a tea (because I’m addicted). NO DESSERT! Then, once the woman had taken both of our orders, he asked if I wanted to “SPLIT THE BILL” which was a total of $5.32. Yes, you read that right. It was a little over $5 and we split it because apparently … apparently, I don’t know what. There’s not end to that sentence that makes sense. It was $5 … even if it had been more, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the man to pay for the first date. This matchmaking service has a whole blog about it.

I almost told her to just put the whole thing on my card because it was five dollars and thirty-two cents! I mean, seriously. If you can’t buy me a tea, then you have no business being out on a date with me.

After we found a seat, drank some tea, and I began asking questions – because he sure didn’t. Some of our conversation was okay … well, my portion (humble again) because he didn’t ask a single question of me for the first 25 minutes. I offered information about me – but that’s only because someone had to fill the silences of the room after he answered a question and then just looked off into space. I also learned a lot about his job – which isn’t all that interesting to be honest. He works in customer service for a financial services company … he prints a lot of statements. One time a customer (an oil company, why do I know that detail?) asked them to bring all of the statements that they had ever received from them. It was over 220! (WOW!) Then they wanted them mailed and emailed but the file was too big so they couldn’t email it, and apparently don’t know how to split PDFs, send multiple emails, or place it in a secure place online where it could be downloaded by the other company (okay, I added those last parts – but I’m not even in the financial services business and I can solve that issue!). Again, why do I know this? Why was this good first date conversation material?

Oh, and he’s not evangelical – he’s actually Catholic (or was raised one, more accurately) but hasn’t been to church in a few years and didn’t even know the name of the parish he attended as a teenager! Which is the largest parish in the United States! So, person of faith seeking to be the spiritual head of the household? Really? You don’t know the name of your church! Unless I missed something … he also didn’t know what an offertory envelope was … that’s how I know he’s not a practicing Catholic. We never miss an opportunity to pass the basket. Which is fine, for him (well, maybe it’s not – but that’s his concern at the end of time) – but it’s not what she told me he was.

I really tried. I brought my A game! I dressed nicely, put on make-up, brushed my teeth (the bar is apparently very low). I made an effort. I didn’t talk about the weather or the mundane parts of my job at all. I brought my A game, and we didn’t even share a salted caramel brownie or have a macaroon! Middle schoolers have more interesting dates that I did tonight, and they have to get their moms to drive them everywhere!

What’s wrong with American Singles? I could start a list … a friend is using Bumble and many of the men on there are “ethically non-monogamous” with pictures of wives in their profile shots. WHAT? I bet they buy their gals a tea and a dessert though!

That’s all. I have no wisdom to offer, no lessons to learn – except, cut the crap on the anxiety Katie – stop worrying to much about what he’s going to think, just go and be yourself. Also, buy your own dessert next time – which I did after he left and had on the way home while yelling on the phone with my friend about this terrible date. It was delicious! Made the drive down there worth it!

Recognizing Him

Reflection on Today’s Gospel: Matthew 17:9A, 10-13

As I’m sure you know, Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas started the weekend before Halloween with a different Christmas movie every day. I believe it’s 37 new ones this year to be precise. If you’ve seen one Hallmark Christmas movie, you’ve seen them all. Girl meets boy, girl doesn’t like boy because she’s dating someone else/sworn off dating entirely/has a feud with boy or his family/doesn’t live in the same state/is disappointed in men, either girl or boy aren’t really *into* Christmas, boy falls in love with girl by accident, boy helps girl decorate Christmas tree/make Christmas cookies/throw Christmas gala – in general save Christmas, boy and girl kiss and live happily ever after.

I mean, they’re all the same. So what’s the point of this?

I’m not someone who watches all of the Hallmark movies, I don’t even have a TV or cable to be able to sit down every night with a cup of hot chocolate and be transported to a land (usually Canada, that’s where they are all filmed) where Christmas is in danger and then saved in less than 2 hours. But I do hold out for a few of them each year because I like some of the actors and let’s face it, they’re cute and sweet. No one gets to a battle, has their gut punctured with a sword, and you see their insides come out (actual movie I watched at a friend’s house a few weeks ago … not my style at all). 

So, again, back to the point. Advent, Christmas, Hallmark, and Jesus! Candace Cameron Bure starred this year in a Shoe Addict’s Christmas which had a sweet story buried in the end about sleighs and how the Lord is there but He disguises Himself. It’s a reinterpretation of the man who dies in a rainstorm. The snow starts coming down and piling up. A man starts praying to the Lord to save Him. A sleigh comes by as the snow is about 2 feet and asks if he needs help. He says, “No, the Lord will save me.” Then the snow rises and a bigger sleigh comes by asking if He needs help. He says, “No, the Lord will save me.” Then he’s on the roof, the snow’s super high, and a giant sleigh comes by and asks if He needs help. He says, “No the Lord will save me.” Then the man drowns, and he meets the Lord face-to-face and says, “Why didn’t you save me?” The Lord replies, “I sent you a three different sleighs – what were you waiting for?” 

How many times does the Lord come to us and we don’t recognize Him? How many prophets have come throughout the Old Testament and the people of God continued to say, “When will you save us from this oppression/famine/heartache?” How many times do we dismiss the Lord when He doesn’t come how we’ve decided He should? 

Recognize Him today. He’s coming to be with you today! It might not be in the exact way you thought it would be. It might be a Hallmark movie telling you to “Wake Up, it’s time to save Christmas!” (Okay, probably not – but maybe!) He’s revealing Himself to you every day in the sunrise, via your family and friends, in the good works of other people, in the way the clouds are different every day, in the sunset, in your prayer, in the Mass! He’s here, are your eyes open?

This reflection originally appears on Carpe Verbum today.

Reading Tools

Beth, Anne, & Me on her I’d Rather Be Reading Book Tour at Mainstreet Books in Davidson!
(also I was SUPER sun-burnt this day, apparently)

I was sitting with some acquaintances the other night when my reading life came up. I told them I met my reading goal for the year of 175 books, now I’m at 188. Unless something weird happens in December, I’ll hit 200 books this year. I can’t even believe it. But as I was talking about some of the things I do to help me track my reading, they said “you should write about these tools so we can take advantage of them.” Well, ladies this is for you!

Here are the tools that help me track my reading progress, find books to read, and use my library better.

  1. The Library Extension: This is the best way to add books to my hold list at the library. You just install it on Chrome and it shows up on Amazon and Goodreads. It tells you if the book is in the library catalog, how many copies exist, and if any are available. So when I see a book from a friend on Goodreads or click over to Amazon, I can see if it’s available at the library, simply click ‘place hold,’ and then go over to the library website and add it to my list. It’s a lot easier than looking up the book, finding the right edition, and placing the hold.
  2. Goodreads: Keeping track of the books I want to read was the biggest need I had. Will my TBR list of 700 ever be empty? Probably not, since I’m always adding to it. I have a lot of different shelves for who recommended it, a list of 2018 books, books from Anne (see below), books I own, what I’ve recommended, book club reads, etc. Goodreads is also the best way to track where you are on your reading goal. It’ll tell you if you’re ahead or behind and also will keep track of what you’ve read. You can either manually add it to the reading challenge list or mark it as ‘currently reading’ and then ‘finished’ in the app or online. In the app you can also scan a book to add it to your TBR or Currently Reading list.
  3. The Library Holds List: The greatest love affair of my life is with my library. I’m there at least once a week, sometimes more. I keep my hold list at the max most of the time for new releases, recommendations, audio books (which I put on USB to listen to in the car), and more. You can pause, suspend, and even save for later within their online account. I do a lot of strategic things with my list by keeping a few spots available for ‘it’ll be a year before this book is available’ books, and a bunch where I’m #1 on the list and I just don’t want to walk to the shelf to get the book when I arrive at the library (kidding, sometimes it’s on shelves but not at my library). Jon Acuff always says that he loves the library because it “makes him feel like a boss” since he can take home 5 or 10 books at a time. You can’t do that at the store, that’s an expensive habit!
  4. IRL Friends: Beth, Mary Grace, Elisabeth, Lisa, and Sarah are my best in real life book friends who share amazing recommendations. I keep track of their recommendations on Goodreads (and also follow them there), and I trust their recommendations because I know them and their reading style. Does every book they read make sense for me? Of course not – but I also like being able to read the same books as my friends so we can talk about it.
  5. Book Podcasts: I listen to two book podcasts regularly. Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next is my favorite. I love Anne’s recommendations and can judge by her plot summaries if I’ll like a book. The shownotes pages are also amazing since they list out every book that was mentioned in the podcast. I’m always adding to my TBR list (and she has a special shelf in Goodreads). I also like Annie Jones on From the Front Porch. She’s the owner of the Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA. I also like her reading style and typically love books that she’s loved. Their shownotes aren’t as extensive, but a great resource!
  6. Bookstagram: I follow a few great people on Instagram that not only promote books that publishers send them for free, but they read a lot of books and have similar reading styles as me. Here are a few of my favorites: What Should I Read Next, Anne Bogel, Annie Jones, Katelyn, and Kate Olson. Also I’m just now realizing that my best bookstagram friends are all named Anne or Katie (in some form).
  7. Modern Mrs. Darcy blog: This is Anne Bogel’s blog. As I’ve said before with her podcast and Instagram, I appreciate her recommendations. She has a great way of cataloging reads by topic, season, monthly updates, etc. 

For me, reading has become my lifestyle. I always have a book in my purse, on my nightstand, in the kitchen, around the living room. I do monthly ‘buddy reads’ with two different friends (we meet monthly to video chat), have a book friends group with people at work, and an IRL book club.

This year I have been writing about my reads every month, not sure I’m going to do that in 2019 because it takes a while and I’m not sure it’s helpful. We shall see – but I find that writing about what I read is really helpful. Also I don’t think a long post about each book would be useful – but maybe a one minute review like my friend David over at Restless Pilgrim does would work.