Looking Back and Moving Forward

Although you might not have realized it from my blogging habits–or lack thereof–from 2018, last year was a whirlwind. I’m finally in a place emotionally, physically, and mentally where I’m able to return to blogging regularly, but before I start posting reviews again, I wanted to share the highs and lows from 2018 as well as my goals and dreams for this new year.

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Goodbye, 2018!

♥ The biggest, most life-changing thing that happened last year? I had a baby! This is also the main reason for my unannounced blog hiatus for most of 2018. In December we welcomed our second son, Finn, and he is perfect and fully loved by us all.

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However, just like with my first pregnancy, this time I also suffered from depression and anxiety. Both are thieves of joy, as anyone with depression and/or anxiety can tell you. I was prepared for it this time, but that didn’t make it any easier; it just encouraged me that it would end at some point, probably at the end of my pregnancy. So for approximately 9 months I was only able to push through a handful of books, not really fully enjoying them; I forced myself to blog a couple of times; mostly I sat on the couch or cuddled in my bed and watched tv or period dramas (at least the depression didn’t steal binge watching from me). But good news: at the end of it all, I was blessed with a beautiful baby boy and a renewed love for reading (since the delivery I have read 7 books!), so I can officially say that my reading slump is over.

♥ In September, after visiting Oregon for my sister’s wedding and hosting my in-laws at our home in Wilmington, NC, we were hit by the devastating and frustratingly sluggish Hurricane Florence. Our coastal city had already reached our average annual rainfall amount before Florence hit, and then she just sat there for DAYS, flooding our city and my house. We had to be emergency evacuated in a boat by FEMA and the Fire Department. 

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My street the day after the flash flood caused by Hurricane Florence. We are near the end of the street, not pictured here, where the water levels were higher. When we were evacuated, the only part of our mailbox that was above water was the very top of the post.

With 18″ of water infiltrating our house (40″ in the garage), we had to completely gut and repair the first floor. Thank God for our second floor, and for the fact that we were here, even though we had to be evacuated, because we were able to save a lot of our belongings. I also thank God for my husband, who, on top of working overtime at work every week, also spent hours every day gutting, cleaning, organizing and packing up salvaged belongings, pulling up floors, installing drywall, installing new floors, and basically becoming a handy-man overnight so that we could be back in our house before Finn arrived. 

With help from our friends, family, and church communities both here and in France, my husband was able to finish the major repairs necessary for us to move back into our house the week of Thanksgiving. There is still much to do. Between Christmas, having a baby, hosting our family, and having the stomach flu (everyone except Finn, thankfully), we still need to unpack several boxes and install cosmetic aspects of our house, like the baseboards and the new back door. But it’s all part of the process! The important thing is that we have a house that is clean and habitable. 

♥ Between prenatal depression and hurricane-induced anxiety, one significant thing I focused on in 2018 was my mental health. A couple of weeks before Hurricane Florence hit, I started seeing a counselor, who diagnosed me with general anxiety. That was nothing surprising, but having a name for it gave me some power over it. I haven’t been able to go to counseling since Finn was born, but I have noticed that I don’t get anxious as much over things that are beyond my control. When I do get anxious (like I did when me, my husband, my toddler, and my family who was staying with us got the stomach flu the week we brought Finn home from the hospital), I focus on relieving that anxiety in a healthy way. Usually that’s by praying and singing comforting worship songs over my situation.

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Welcome, 2019!

♥ What’s my number one goal for this year? Declutter my life! I’m sure most (nearly) 30-year old moms have this new year’s resolution, but in my case it’s also part of our hurricane recovery process (I promise that’s the last time I include the h-word in this post; I’m tired of hearing it as much as you probably are). As I unpack and organize our belongings, I stop and ask myself, “Is this necessary? Do I love it?” If the answer is no, the item is either donated or trashed. I still have a ways to go before my whole house is decluttered, but every little step is progress and each time I get rid of something it brings me a sense of peace. Plus, it’s nice opening the kitchen cabinet and seeing only the mugs I actually use and enjoy.

♥ This year I’ve decided to read what I want. I didn’t originally plan it this way, but it also goes along with my decluttering resolution. In the past I’ve filled a lot of my time reading books I didn’t love; sometimes they were review books, sometimes they were classics I felt I had to read. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading books that were fluffy, meaningless reads, which is ok sometimes, but this year I’m ready for a change. Maybe it’s part of getting older or having more kids: I’ve realized how little time I have to read and I want to spend that time reading really good books. I also want to focus on reading one, maybe two books at a time, as opposed to the two to three books I normally read at once. I know that most people only read one book at a time, but I’m a restless multitasker when it comes to reading, especially when I’m reading a slower-paced book.

♥ While Finn will be sleeping in our bedroom for the next few months, eventually he and his older brother will be sharing their bedroom, so one of my goals this year is to fix up the nursery. It’s currently a woodland creatures theme, but we plan to modify it a little to give it a Peter Pan/Neverland theme. I’m so excited about this, and I hope my boys enjoy it too! I’ll be sure to share pictures when their lost boys’ hideout is complete.

♥ This year I’m also aspiring to focus on hospitality. After being blessed by the hospitality and generosity of our friends over the past few months, I’ve been encouraged to deepen those qualities in my own life. I’ve noticed how greedy I can be with my time and resources, and I’ve been feeling a desire to change that.

♥ Lastly, and what I anticipate will be the hardest goal to achieve this year: I’d like to finally finish the first draft of my novel. I started writing it over a year and a half ago and I have not been very persistent. It’s a mental struggle, but I hope to overcome it and get my story written down, even if only I ever read it. 

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I’m looking forward to another year of growth! From last year’s experience, I know that being stretched isn’t necessarily a comforting idea, but it does produce stronger character and a clearer perspective in the end.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. – Anne of Green Gables

What are your resolutions for this year?

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December Highlights

Happy New Year!! I know this post is a few days behind schedule, but I was taking advantage of some vacation time to relax and not worry about blog posts. Instead I was catching up on some reading :)

December was a pretty stressful month, actually, and I think a lot of that had to do with my reading goals for 2014. I’m a predictable procrastinator, and I pushed myself to read some bigger books near the end of the year because I didn’t feel like reading them months ago (I’m also a mood reader). BUT,  I was actually pretty satisfied with how I finished the year.

I read 9 books in December

That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but 3 of those books were Classics, one of which was in French! 

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Most Popular Post From December

My post about my and my husband’s 3rd Wedding Anniversary received the most hits last month :)

Highlights from December

  • Christmastime!!! I love decorating the house for Christmas. Our tradition is to bake Christmas cookies and watch It’s A Wonderful Life after the tree has been set up and decorated.
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  • Visiting Mount Vernon for our 3rd Wedding Anniversary. We attended their special Christmas Illuminations event, and it was so much fun that we hope to go again this year!
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  • The Broke and the Bookish’s Annual Secret Santa Event. This was my second year participating in this event, and this year it was the best ever! I was so thrilled when I found out that I had received the event’s coordinator, Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner, as my secret santa! I think I had more fun picking gifts for her than opening my own gifts! But my secret santa, Alana, did a phenomenal job at gifting me the perfect books! And she also sent me a dinosaur magnet and a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows necklace! So awesome, right??
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December’s Challenges

  • For me, the hardest thing about December was how busy and stressed out I was. Since I started my new job back in November, I’ve realized how little time I can devote to reading now. My commute is 1 hour-1 hour 30 minutes each way, depending on traffic, and so when I get home at night it feels like I have enough time to eat dinner and watch an episode of Supernatural with my husband before I either crash from exhaustion or force myself to go to bed so I can get up for work again in the morning. I’m still shocked that I was able to read 9 books this month, two of which were solely audiobooks. A couple of the Classics I would listen to from YouTube during my commute and then pick up the paperback at home. I’m hoping that we’re able to relocate somewhere closer to my job in January or February, but until then I will just need to come to terms with the fact that my job trumps reading :(
  • Reading Journey to the Center of the Earth in French! To cross off one of my 25 Things, I finished reading Jules Verne’s epic adventure in French last month. I had read the first half back in July (each July to celebrate Bastille Day, I like to read a Verne book. This is my patriotic side coming out, something that Americans delight in having while the French kind of laugh at), but I hadn’t finished it and I wanted to read it by the end of 2014 for my Back to the Classics Challenge. It was hard, but I managed to finish the book in 4 days (I could only read about 50 pages a day before my head started hurting).

Looking forward – January TBR

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What I’m Looking Forward to in January…

  • My husband had a phone interview last week and he has another interview tomorrow where he will be given a software test (he’s an engineer so it’s some type of design software). We’d appreciate prayers! He’s been unemployed for over a year now and it has gotten really hard on him.
  • I’m really looking forward to working towards keeping my bookish New Year’s Resolutions! So far, so good. I’m stressing out less about reading, and I’m NOT checking out books from the library until I’ve finished the ones I’ve been renewing since November. I’ve also avoided buying any books in the 4 days since New Years Day (hey, for some people, that could be a record).
  • I bought some yarn today and plan to crochet an afghan this month! I haven’t crocheted anything in about a year, and this is also a bucket list item I’ve put on my 25 Things list :) So expect a post in a few weeks about that!

What were some of your highlights from December? Any big wishes for January that you’d like to share? I’d love to know!

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Resolutions!

toptentuesdayThe last Top Ten Tuesday post of 2014 is all about my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015! Normally I have one or two resolutions at the start of each year, but I rarely follow through. I feel like 2015 will be different. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m getting older, but there are plenty of things I want to do in my life, and there’s no time like the present :)

Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Stress out less about reading – Sometimes I get into that habit of treating reading as a chore instead of a hobby. I create these deadlines and sign up for these challenges in order to get myself to read more, and sometimes those things are fun, but usually it just stresses me out. And reading is supposed to be fun, not stressful!
  2. Cut back on book review requests – This year I discovered NetGalley, and I love it! But I went a little clicker-crazy and requested to review way too many books. I never expected to be approved for most of them, but I was wrong. So now I’ve decided to spend the beginning of next year focusing on all the upcoming books I need to review. I’m also hoping this will help out with stressing out less about reading (checking things off a To Do list=a happy Maggie).
  3. Trim down my TBR list – I expanded my library so much this year, and most of those books are still sitting on my shelf unread. I’m hoping to knock out a big chunk of those To Be Read books in 2015.
  4. Reorganize my personal library – I have too many books and not enough shelf space (the pitfall of being a bookworm). I’d love to reorganize my bookshelves and also keep a better record of the books I have out on loan (one of these would be fantastic).
  5. Read more Dickens – I am ashamed to admit that I have read ONE Dickens novel in my entire life. Granted, it was one of his best (Great Expectations), but I would love to make 2015 a Dickensian year.
  6. Talk to my husband more about the books I read – He probably already thinks I talk enough about books, but I would love to share more with my husband about my bookish thoughts.
  7. Read what I love – This year I read a lot of books I normally wouldn’t have because of their popularity and not necessarily because they were “me” books. Often at times I didn’t want to finish these books because I couldn’t stand an unrealistic character, a cheesy plot line, or a cringeworthy writing style, but I hate the idea of giving up on a book I’ve started. I don’t plan on keeping this reading habit up into the New Year. In 2015 I will read the types of books I know I will enjoy, whether they are popular or not.
  8. Travel more – This isn’t a bookish resolution, but next year I definitely want to spend more time visiting new places and taking mini-vacations. Living in France showed me the importance of going on vacations a couple times a year, and I think that’s a habit I should keep up now that I’m back in the States.
  9. Cross off as many things from my 25 Things list as possible – I have seriously been slacking on my bucket list I made to celebrate my 25th birthday. I’ve completed less than 10 of my 25 goals, with a few more lined up in January. There are a few big things, like travel to the UK/Ireland and visit a new continent, that I know I won’t be able to do before March (at the time I thought we’d be living in France for another year or so and would have more opportunities to travel). BUT, to be optimistic, I’ve done a lot of fun things that weren’t on my list :)
  10. Move! – This is the biggest resolution for me and my husband. We’re itching to find our own apartment/home and to actually start settling down into our new life in the States. It’s been great living with my family and spending time with them, but as any married couple can agree with, sometimes you just need your own space :)

There you have it! My 10 resolutions for 2015. What are some of your resolutions for the New Year?