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!

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. 

What I Read … November 2018 Edition

November was such a warm and cozy month that I couldn’t help but read. It also helped to have an entire Thanksgiving weekend without obligations where I could just read and sit and read and sleep and read. I also hit my reading goal for the year, which was a nice surprise! I’m going for 200 for the year and think I can do it … I only need 17 books in December and lots of cozy reading time over Christmas break will help!!

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #11) by Louise Penny: I’m almost the entire way through the Inspector Gamache series and I love every new book more than the previous. I’ve heard Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy describe Louise Penny’s books as “a story about humanity and psychology wrapped around a murder mystery.” It’s so true. I’m in love with these characters and am excited to keep moving through the series. I read two this month (see below) and have another on the counter in the TBR pile from the library. I found it right on the shelf waiting for me!

The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller: This was a sweet read I did as a buddy read with my friend Lisa. It was about a woman who had been running her father’s diner since her mother’s passing. Her dad passed a few years ago and her sister took off with her share of the house leaving Nora to run the diner. Someone passes, leaves the sisters a lot of land and a bunch of debt, and then a cute rep from a big box store comes to town offering to solve all of their problems. There’s a bit of love, a lot of fire, some great art, and a sweet story about family and love working itself out later in life. 

It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single by Sara Eckel: I saw this book in this Verily article a few weeks ago and thought “why not, what have I got to lose?” The library had it on Hoopla so I downloaded it and started listening and I couldn’t stop. This is one of the best books I’ve read on the single life, ever. The author is married when she writes the book, but she isn’t writing her advice to long-time single girls as someone who married at 27 and just ‘waited forever.’ I roll my eyes deeply to the back of my head when I read those books. I’ll spoil the end for you though – the actual reason why you’re single (and I’m single) is that we haven’t met the right person at the right time. That’s all. It’s as simple and as frustrating as that. Also I loved this book so much I immediately purchased my very own copy!

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: We read this for book club this month. I’d seen the movie years ago, but really liked the book. The time table could be hard to follow at times, but it was good to have everything written out and the headings helped. Someone else listened to it and said there are two narrators, one for Henry and one for Clare. 

The Power by Naomi Alderman: I borrowed this book from my future sister-in-law who read it for her book club. I have been really into dystopian fiction this year (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Giver Series, & Vox) and wanted to dive into a book where women were given power over men rather than deeper into a world where men take advantage of their power over men. I also appreciated that From the Front Porch had a Love It or Loathe It back episode about it. I have so many conflicting thoughts on this book, but at its heart I think it’s a story about the ways that women do to men what men have done to women for millennia. One of the things someone on that episode says is that it was really hard to read about women raping men in the book – but that they don’t find stories about men raping women to be as disturbing. I think that’s the issue. Naomi exaggerated so many things in the book to show how ridiculous they actually are. For instance, it’s a book within a book – and she writes to the man who wrote it that he might find it easier to publish the book under a women’s name. It seemed silly – but then think about J.K. Rowling

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg: I started this book when it came through my hold list earlier this summer and loved the first chapter so much I knew I needed to have my own copy. So I purchased one and opened a different book, and then I finally got back around to it this month. It was so good and the very last recipe has become my new favorite dessert to make: The Wining Hearts & Minds Chocolate Cake. I just purchased the ingredients to make 3 cakes for the 3 teams at our home office who help me most throughout the year. Shhh, they don’t know cake is about to be in the mail!

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: I listened to this on audio, and if you haven’t listened to it, you’re missing out. Amy is so funny and she has a full cast! It was a delight to listen to and I enjoyed it immensely. 

Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, And Evangelize the World by Matthew Warner: Borrowed this from someone at work and read it in less than an hour. I couldn’t help but share aspects on my stories on Instagram. I even made a highlights real if you want a quick summary. It was inspiring. I feel more ready to go out into the world and share my faith!

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12) by Louise Penny: Back out of retirement, Armand dives into a new area of the police force – the academy. Just a delightful look into the human mind. Can’t wait for #13 … three books in line ahead of it!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: I have read a lot about WW2 historical fiction and some WW1, but nothing about Vietnam. This was smart and funny and sweet. It was in a list from Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy a while ago and I liked it. A sweet middle grade fiction read.

This Is What Happy Looks Like (This Is What Happy Looks Like #1) by Jennifer E. Smith: I don’t remember why I picked this one up, but it was fine. Nothing special – more like an adult chick-lit book but with teens and without any graphic sex scenes. In that way it’s super sweet – but I I’m seeing it’s part of a series, that I won’t continue to read.

Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault Newman: I’ve been a political memoir junky this year too with lots about the Obama White House. This was my first Trump White House book, other than Fear which I’m half-way through. I learned a bit about the Trump Administration, but mostly I just learned about Omarosa. I admire her for her accomplishments in that she wanted something and she went after it and got it. I think she was let-go unfairly – but I don’t think she’s an amazing role model. One thing that was super interesting was reading about how someone can put aside all of the red flags because they were fully entranced in the message. Looking back she says these were red flags, but in the moment they were just stepping stones to help her get what she wanted. At least she was honest about that.

Christmas on the Island (Summer Seaside Kitchen #3) by Jenny Colgan: I read the first two books in this series earlier this year and loved them, so I was so excited to see that a Christmas one was released. A super sweet love story, which you know I love. You definitely need to read the first two to appreciate this one, so don’t go skipping ahead.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan: This year I’ve begun a deeper dive into C.S. Lewis and was excited to see this book about Joy Davidman, his wife. It was sweetly written, super interesting, and an inspiring story about love. The author did a lot of research and appeared to capture what it was really like for them. Although I don’t know much of the biographical information so I can’t compare it to that.

Can We Be Friends? by Rebecca Frech: I liked much of this book and disliked other parts of it. Some was inspiring about friends, but other parts were “doesn’t everyone know this to be true?” I have lots of great friends, but none of them are calling me while peeing on the stick to see if they are pregnant or not … and I think that’s a good boundary to have. Rebecca mentions this a lot, and I’m not sure what that’s about. Maybe I just don’t know because I’ve never taken a pregnancy test?

Well, that’s 15 books this month and brings my 2018 total to 183. I’m 105% of my goal of 175 books. I think I’ll make it to 200 books this year, only time will tell. One more work trip (lots of flying) and a trip home (22+ hours in the car so I’ve got at least 3 audio books lined up)! Catch up on previous editions of “what I read”: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October

Self-Care and FOMO

Everyone’s always talking about the benefits of self-care, and to learn more a friend and I are reading the book It’s Okay to Start with You together as our buddy-read this fall to dive a little deeper. So what is it? Well, it’s not “treat yo’self” all the time. Self-Care isn’t pedicures and spa days and shopping every weekend. It is making sure you take care of you so you can take care of other people.

Self-Care is about fitness, nutrition, leisure, prayer, mental health, emotional health, sleep, relationships, and boundaries. Many of the things people talk about with their therapist or counselor. 

Last year when I started seeing a counselor she would ask me about self-care, and I had a hard time articulating what I would do that week for self-care. I felt like I should always be busy, active, doing things, going places, etc. Since I’m single and wanting to meet someone, this is how I would do that. How could I be both wanting to get married and planning to sit at home all weekend reading a book? 

I learned that it’s okay to do that. It’s okay to start with me. My travel schedule this year has been pretty crazy and November was a lot crazy. I only had one trip but it was 10 days long, involved 5 cities and 7 different beds. It also included a lot of driving. I was beat afterward so I decided to throw a party at my house with almost 20 people (which is a lot of people for my small townhouse).

The only way I made it through was knowing that my Thanksgiving weekend involved Thanksgiving at a friends and then reading and movie watching the other three days. That’s what I’ve done the last three days. I read 4 books, watched some Christmas movies, drank some wine, talked to a few friends, and slept in. I also started a new fitness program which kicked my butt all week. I could hardly walk for two days after doing a fair amount of squats. 

This weekend I took care of me. From now until the end of the year I have just one week I’m not traveling, and something to do every weekend. I’m happy for all of those things, but I needed to take a break this weekend and take care of me. 

And that’s okay. We don’t have to be busy all of the time. We don’t have to have things going on all of the time. Last week I wrote a ‘dear friend‘ letter and a friend at work told me how lovely it was, but also how hard it was for her to read. She said the nearest single friend she has who could be there for her in this way lives over an hour away, and also that she doesn’t know anyone who isn’t crazy busy

I think we are all too crazy busy way too much. We value busyness like it’s a virtue, like if we aren’t going all of the places all of the time we will miss something important. As a society I think we have some serious FOMO (that’s Fear of Missing Out).

For a long time I did. But it was more like FOMH: Fear of Missing Him. Like if I didn’t do all of the things all of the time (YA ministries, Meet Ups, friend parties, events) I’d still be single and it’d be my own fault. I think parents have a Fear of Missing Out that they project onto their children. Fear of Missing Opportunities, Tree Lightings, Santa’s Laps, Disney Adventures, Summer Memories, Education, College, Extracurriculars, etc.

It’s all a little too much. We need a little more family game night, movie nights together, dinner at the table, laughing over a funny story, visiting with grandparents, adopting aunts and uncles, and family. It’s hard to pull out of what the culture says we need to be, to do, to have, to desire, to like, to want, to etc. We should be trying to say no because we have a Fear of Being Too Busy. Instead we appear to have a Fear of Not Being Busy Enough. 

So brew a cup of tea, find a book, choose a board game, cook a simple supper and enjoy self-care or family-care over busyness and the hustle and bustle of life. I’m making it one of my 2019 resolutions, and I’m starting now!

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I know that life is busy, things get hectic, and we can’t accomplish all of the things we want to. I know that I don’t know what it’s like to have a baby, two toddlers, three with another on the way, or six of all ages running around the house. The thing I do have, as a single woman who loves kids, is time.

I know I’m out of town a lot, but when I’m home, I desire nothing more than to hang out with my friends and catch up. I know we can’t always go out for a glass of wine or a pedicure or see a movie. I know you’ve got a lot going on at home with all of those little ones. I know that sometimes you’re just so tired you can hardly stand up straight – and you’ve still got three baths to give, five stories to read, and kids to put to bed who want nothing to do with sleeping. 

Although all of that is true, I still want to be your friend. Even more, I want to help you. I wish you’d be willing to ask for help, and then actually receive it.

The worst lie being told about motherhood in our society today is that you have to do it all. You have to be the perfect mom who has a great job, whose kids are involved in everything under the sun, who is always dressed well with perfectly dressed kids, who feeds their kids only veggies and homemade nutritious food. Not only that you’re supposed to be the perfect wife too.

Let’s all call BS on that now. None of us is perfect.

I’ll say it again, as a recovering perfectionist, None of Us is PERFECT. Truthfully we aren’t supposed to be and we can’t be. It’s just the truth.

So why are we trying to convince the world otherwise?

We all need help sometimes. Some of us more than others depending on the season of life we are in. Please don’t be afraid to show me your mess. I’ve been sharing mine with you for years. I’ve been crying on your shoulder as another birthday goes by without a man by my side in marriage. I’ve been expressing my self-doubt about whether I’m good enough at work to take on a new project. I’ve been showing you the messiness of my home by having your over when an afternoon of cleaning would have been a better use of my time. I’m not afraid of showing you my mess, and I wish you weren’t so scared of showing me yours.


Because I want to help. When your husband has to go out of town and the thought of being alone with the kids for the weekend amidst all of the other things on your plate overwhelms you, I want to take up residence in your guest room and cook you breakfast, play with your kids, give them a bath, and read story after story before bed. When you just can’t think about getting up off the couch because your morning sickness is more than you can handle, I want to come grab your kiddos and take them out for the afternoon so you can have a moment to be nauseous all alone.

I’m great at telling stories. I give great baths. I’m pretty fun with pretend games. I can climb up and down the slide over and over again with no problem. I make a mean mac and cheese and my PB&J is the stuff of legends. I can cut apples like nobody’s business, and my cleaning skills are on point. Rocking babies to sleep is my superpower, and I want nothing more than to be your friend when you need one the most.

I know that you’re ‘supposed to be able to do it all, all by yourself.’ But I’m calling BS. You can’t. I can’t. But We can, together. Why do you think that women put with up with polygamy for centuries? It wasn’t because “their husband earned the affection of all those great women.” PLEASE! It was because they lived a sisterhood and helped one another out. They needed each other, they used one another to help raise their children. They divided the housework amongst themselves. They took care of each other when they were sick or pregnant or recovering from childbirth or nursing all the time.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I want to marry your husband – although he may have been the last good one out there. I’m suggesting that it’s okay that we can’t do it all alone because we don’t have to.

One of the benefits of having a single friend who likes kids and isn’t afraid of messes is that she’s willing to walk into yours. I’m willing to change diapers, clean bathrooms, fold laundry, take kids on an adventure to McDonald’s or the Aquarium (why doesn’t anyone want to go to the aquarium with me?), brew a cup of tea, bake cookies, bring dinner or lunch, do the dishes, vacuum the floor, or whatever you need.

Because that’s what friends do. We’re there for one another through it all. Please let me help you, let me love you in this way. Not because I know you’ll do the same for me (although I sure hope you have the chance to), but because it’s how we can lean upon one another.

You might not be able to even think of taking your kids to the library all by yourself because it’s just ‘been.a.day.‘ But I’m well rested, showered, and had a good breakfast – and I can do anything for 3 hours. 

So friend, don’t be afraid to ask. I won’t think any less of you – honestly, I’ll think more of you because you recognize it takes a village. We all need each other … I can’t help if you don’t ask, I won’t impose myself on your life, your family, your home. If invited, I will come in and help. I want to. Please let me.

Your friend.