2017 Reading Goals!

2016 wasn’t a great year in a lot of respects. For one thing, I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Thankfully, it wasn’t serious, but I did struggle for a while to find my footing after the fact. Oh, and also. There was the whole election thing when Trump won and now it feels like we’re screeching toward a dark, deep oblivion where we’ll never know happiness again. Basically, Trump’s presidency = getting the kiss of death from a dementor.

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BUT!

There was one way the year did not let me down. It was my one big bright spot. It was always good. Always reassuring.

Reading.

My one real goal was to read more than 30 books, as I’d never been able to eclipse that number in year’s past. Other than that, my only other tangible goal was to track the books I read on a spreadsheet. Here’s a few of the outcomes:

Books read: 37 (I did it!)

Pages read: 10,837

Types of books read: 9 nonfiction books (my favorite was Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance), 28 fiction books (my favorites were Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami).

Average book rating (on a scale of 1-5): 4

female/male author breakdown: 30 female authors, 7 male authors

POC authors: 4

Number of Audiobooks: 1

I loved tracking all of this. It’s helped to show me my very clear reading preferences and trends. I gravitate toward female authors. Reading through my list also shows me that I also tend to be drawn to debut works by female authors. Oh, and most of the authors are white. There’s not a ton of author diversity there.

I’ve learned that the best nonfiction works for me are memoirs or essays. I’ve also learned that, though I LOVE the idea of audiobooks, for whatever reason listening to fiction is a struggle for me. The only audiobook I completed this year was Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. Nonfiction/memoir audiobooks work best, especially when read by the author.

Another trend I saw: the closer we got to the end of the calendar year, the less I read. This is something I remember from 2015 as well, but I wasn’t tracking it at that time. I’m not sure what it is about the late fall/early winter time of November and December, but I found it more difficult to sink into reading during those months. I read only 1 book in November and 2 in December. The most books I read in a month was 5 (May and October).

With all that said, I have one specific goal and several general goals for 2017. I want to read 40 books. I know that’s only 3 more than I read this year, but…baby steps. I want to diversify my reading a bit, too. For instance, I LOVE fiction. However, maybe I can break away from gravitating toward debut releases from white, female authors? There’s too many good books out there to continually be sucked in by buzzworthy books. I want to continue reading more nonfiction that excites me (more memoirs and essays). I also want to read books by authored by folks other than white Americans.

So there we have it… 2017 reading goals are listed. Time for 52 (well, 51-ish at this point) of dedicated reading!

2017 Reading Goals!

A story.

Reading the news about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which also includes defunding Planned Parenthood, is on my mind in a big way today.
When I was fresh out of college and working with elementary school students as an AmeriCorps volunteer nearly 10 years ago, I was pretty broke, but loving the work I was doing. There were few big downsides, though. The first was that since I’d never worked with kids before, I picked up ALL the kiddo germs (pink eye, so many terrible colds, multiple rounds of strep throat, the flu, etc.). Another downside: my health insurance wasn’t great and had a crazy high deductible.
No one ever wants to get sick, but it happens to all of us. What happens, though, when you get sick and don’t have enough money in your bank account to see a doctor? That’s stressful and demoralizing. As an AmeriCorps member, I made just enough money to live and pay expenses (and splurge on a weekly cinnamon bun at West End Bakery with my girlfriends). One time, upon leaving an urgent care with a really bad case of strep throat, I was told I needed to pay $214 — this was the cost of being seen by a grumpy physician’s assistant and getting a strep test to tell me what I already knew: I had strep and needed antibiotics. Well, I burst into tears. I did not have the money to pay. I know the folks working behind the desk were just doing their jobs, but they acted like I was a nuisance, when I was clearly sick and very upset. $214 was SO much money to me. Finally, I was told I could be put on a payment plan. And so I paid off my bill in $25 increments, which took around 8 months. Thankfully, I eventually learned of a low cost health clinic that made seeing a healthcare professional a lot less stressful for the most part; however, it was only open certain days of the week, so if you needed to see a doctor on a Wednesday, well, too bad.
But the point is… shouldn’t there be a better way? We all need health care. We all deserve access to health care so that we can get the help we need when we’re sick, as well as learn of preventative measures we can take to stay healthy. While not perfect, that is what the ACA is all about. It’s a start.
I also want to say that there was one thing that was never stressful for me during that time: routine gynecology visits and wellness checks. That’s because I went to Planned Parenthood where I was always, always, always treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. Going to Planned Parenthood was never stressful, and it never made me cry. I received great care and never had to worry about walking out with an empty bank account.
I don’t have much, but I can (and have) donated to Planned Parenthood.
And I have a voice to share my story. It’s one of many.
A story.

On holding on and letting go

 

This fall has knocked me down a few times. Has it been the same for you? I’m trying to do a bit better at taking care of myself, and part of that is listening to Inner Katie. Inner Katie tells Physical World Katie to do things like write, go for a walk in the woods, bake something new, read, and tuck yourself in early for a good night’s sleep. Physical World Katie has a tendency to go out of her way to numb herself to these good, heath-giving tips. So here I am, back at my digital creative corner, trying to reclaim a space I’ve been absent from for some months.

I sat down about a week ago to write something here. Many, many paragraphs into it, I stopped because I became very bored with myself and deleted the whole thing. No one, including me, needed eleventy-three paragraphs of the difficulties of this fall, starting with my bike accident and going up through the horror that is our most recent election.

So, instead, I have made the active choice to let all that shit go. Holding onto all the ways the world has let me down this fall was seriously sending me in to a dark place. Sometimes it’s been difficult, but I’m realizing I can take much better care of myself and be a happier, more productive person if I thoughtfully embrace things that fulfill me.

Here are a few things that have really been helping me the last few weeks:

  1. Being active. Sometimes this means a bike ride (though, admittedly, biking has fallen down a few notches since my bike accident). Other times, this means a simple walk around the neighborhood, to the coffee shop, or to and from work. Many times, it means going to one of my favorite places as of late: the woods. I’ve always loved hikes on trails through the woods, but lately walking through the woods has made me downright joyful, probably due to the combination of getting fresh air, moving my body, being around animals, and spending time quietly observing the world around me.
  2. This one should, technically, fall in line with #1, but I have a few things to say about it, so it gets to stand by itself: yoga. I’ve taken yoga classes before, and have even invested in several punchcards at one of my local studios. However, I was never gung-ho about yoga enough to attend all the classes my punchcard allowed for me before the (very generous) six month time limit expired. Clearly, I’ve always liked the IDEA of yoga more than the actual practice of yoga. A week and a half ago, my yoga studio offered a special deal on a 10 class punchcard, and I quickly purchased one. Since then, I’ve taken 3 classes…and I’ve gotten REAL emotional in all of them. This time around, yoga seems to be helping me tap into a lockbox of negativity and emotions I’ve been carrying around and wasn’t even aware of. While I’m thankful for all the physical benefits of yoga, this time I’m especially grateful to the way yoga is helping me work through some of the dark emotions I’ve been carting around.
  3. Reading. This year has been a really good reading year for me. I’ve just finished my 36th book of the year and have reached my goal of reading more than 30 books in 2016. My reading has been a bit up and down this fall. Reading helps me in a way I can’t really describe. It’s like good therapy for my mind and soul. That’s been such an important thing to remember this fall, as my reading took a little hit. I always feel better when I’m immersed in a book, so it’s always worth it to pick a book up and read it.

Life is full of peaks and valleys. Along with embracing and taking comfort in the meaningful relationships with friends and families, these are the things I’m choosing to embrace right now as I navigate my way out of this little valley.

Happy holidays…here’s a peaceful deer spotted on our wintry hike yesterday.

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On holding on and letting go

Lately

I’ve been letting this little space fall by the wayside, but in typical summer fashion that just means life has been busy and full in (mostly) all the best ways. Since my last post, we’ve enjoyed two back-to-back weekends of camping (first at Wilderness State Park and then at Interlochen State Park), we visited some friends who moved to Ann Arbor, I’ve been reading like a fiend, and bike commuting on the reg. All of that has been great, amazing, and wonderful (if not a bit tiring). This weekend we had nothing scheduled. Zilch. Nada. What a gift to sleep, relax, read, nap, bike, and sip lavender lattes.

Within the last few weeks I’ve read Modern Lovers by Emma Straub and… I just didn’t like it! I follow Emma on instagram and find her to be charming and sweet. Her book left me wondering if I was supposed to connect to her story or her characters in any real, meaningful way. The book itself is very readable. It’s light and fluffy. But there was very little redeeming ANYTHING about the story for me. So…there’s that.

I also read Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith. This one was…interesting. I think I liked it? At the very least there were some aspects I liked and connected with? Still sort of scratching my head on this one, to be honest. I guess it’s sort of an environmental thriller. The story follows Lucie Bowen as she returns to the island home of her youth. After a devastating earthquake and explosion of the oil refinery, which took her father’s life, she and her mother left the island 20 years earlier. The island is thought to be uninhabitable and dangerous as a result of all the chemicals from the explosion. She finally returns to check out her family home and reconnect with her best friend, Katie. Katie and a community are working to revive the island and land hippie-commune style…but things feel a bit sinister and not on the up-and-up. Lucie, a journalist, follows her curiosity to uncover the truth about the island, Katie, and the group she’s a part of. There were a lot of elements to this book that I liked, but ultimately I was left wanting more. The characters and plot felt a little flat to me.

Next I read The Girls, which seems to be THE BOOK of the summer. Also, the author, Emma Cline is in her mid-twenties. I mean… wow. Anyway, the book follows Evie Boyd, an insecure and lonely 14 year old as she befriends Suzanne, a member of a fictional Manson-like cult. I really, really enjoyed this book. You’d think the focus of this book would be her activity and life within the cult, but I think Cline uses Evie’s role in the cult to flesh out the difficulty and frustration of being a teenage girl. I found myself identifying so much with Evie, as middle school and my early foray into high school was…just so, so hard. I didn’t know who I was or how to be a person and I was desperate for inclusion. Cline gets it. Want proof? Here’s some quotes:

“That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.”

“All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you—the boys had spent that time becoming themselves. —”

“It was an age when I’d immediately scan and rank other girls, keeping up a constant tally of how I fell short.”

Currently I’m reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I’m really loving it. The book focuses on the decedents of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, born in 18th century Ghana. Effia marries James, a well-to-do Englishman whose business centers on slave trade. Esi, meanwhile, is kidnapped, imprisoned, and sent to America to work on plantations as a slave. Chapter by chapter, I’m reading about a specific member of each sister’s family. It’s full and rich and devastating. Though only halfway through, I think this will be one of the books that really sticks with me long after I finish reading it.

In terms of biking, I’ve been commuting to work 2-3 days each week. Just this simple act of riding my bike 1.5(ish) miles to and from work each day has been so transformative. It’s the perfect, reflective way to start and end each day. I also love how my bike commute has helped me sort of reframe time. Though my ride to and from work isn’t long, it used to feel long, which made me dread riding. Now it just feels normal. It’s made me realize there are so many other areas of my life that feel a certain way, when really all I need to do is focus on reframing the reality — build different, better habits. Things like: Cleaning. And chores in general. Things you’d normally put off until you simply can’t ignore them any longer. Josh and I also went on a mega-ride yesterday to a brewery in Mason, MI. 17 miles there…17 miles back. I’m exhausted and my body just feels out of sorts today. This always happens when I do big rides. It’s a sign that I should do them more and train more! I think it’s also a sign that I might not do the best job of hydrating and eating the proper things before, during, and after my ride. Things to work on for the future!

To end this novel of a post… I can’t talk about all the good without also reflecting on the heaviness of this past week. Of Alton Sterling. Of Philando Castile. Of Dallas. Of Black Lives Matter. I feel like a lot of other white people: Speechless. Lost. Uncertain of what to do. My mantra for just about everything is Just Show Up. Show up feeling uncertain and speechless. Show up feeling lost. Just don’t hide. Don’t shift the focus away to something else. Don’t pretend that what’s happening isn’t happening. Show up. Acknowledge. Advocate. Be a friend. Be collaborative. Be ready to learn. And so that’s where I’m at.

Until next time…

Lately

On tracking read books and breaking in a new bike

After simply keeping a list of the books I read last year, I decided I wanted a slightly more detailed account of all the pages I was turning. So, I made a very simple spreadsheet to document the date I finished the book, name of book, number of pages of book, author of book, gender of author, author’s nationality, genre of book, and a rating on a scale of 1 to 5. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s been fun to keep up with and to look over and see my progress over the year. I’ve read 17 book thus far this year and there are some definite trends emerging: I barely read any male authors and I mostly read books by American authors. It’s interesting to see it all on one spreadsheet, calls attention to these trends, and pushes me to question why I stay in my comfort zone so much. One thing the spreadsheet has helped encourage me in thus far is diversifying the genre of book I read. Typically, I happily gravitate toward literary fiction and rarely stray from that. With my handy spreadsheet, though, I am now logging more nonfiction, gothic fiction, suspense/thriller, Scifi, graphic novel, etc.

In other book news, I’m loving my library as much as ever these days. For so long I was so persnickety about books. In my mind, if I didn’t get to put a book on my bookshelf after buying it or reading it, it wasn’t worth it. Well, that was shortsighted! I’ve changed my habits and, these days, I turn first to my library for books. In fact, 14 of my 17 books this year have been library books. [And now, a moment of appreciation for the particular library branch I frequent. Just over a mile from my house is a community center. And within that community center there is a room. And in that room there are shelves and several computers stuffed where ever there is space. It’s kind of a comical library branch. It feels old, a little musty, a bit dingy. At first glance, there’s nothing particularly magical about it, but I started using it because it was close and convenient. And, over time, I’ve really grown to love it. It may not be cozy or especially inviting at first sight, but the people that work there are truly wonderful and I always see a diverse group of users in there.]

ANYWHO…I just read The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (not my normal jam, but FUN and kind of scary!) and now I’m moving on to Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar. I’ve got 7 more on hold for me, including a few big summer releases like Modern Lovers (Emma Straub), The Girls (Emma Cline), and Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi).

On the bike front: I’ve been having a blast on my new Trek 520. It’s sturdy and solid and I predict many happy riding years ahead. Thus far, I’ve been biking to work at least twice a week, have ran errands on the bike, taken it on lots of fun rides around town, and have gone on one longer 30ish mile ride. I actually, just this afternoon, sold my old Giant. It was kind of sad…that was the bike I fell in love with cycling on. BUT. It was just sitting in my garage and now it’s gone to a good home.

And while I’m chatting about my wheels, there’s another update from the Rosenberg family: we sold Josh’s car this week. That means we have one car and 4 bikes between the two of us. I think we’ll be just fine. 🙂

On tracking read books and breaking in a new bike

My weekend things!

Weekend. It’s a lovely word, isn’t it? I know I talk about the weather a lot, and I know that can be a boring topic, but why stop now? It’s been kind of a dreary start to spring. Occasionally the sun and warm air cooperated, but mostly it’s been chilly(ish) and gray and damp. So, when the weather turned last week and gave us a full week of sun and warmth, you’d think we’d all won the lottery. Friday afternoon goodbyes at work went like this:

Coworker: Enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend!

Me: No, YOU enjoy this beautiful weather this weekend!

Coworker: I will!

Me: I will, too! My husband says we’ve earned this good weather! We deserve it!

Coworker: Well, he’s right!

Me: I agree!

[As I type this, I can hear the sound of neighbors embarking on yard work projects and the sounds of the lawn mowers and weed eaters are music to my ears.]

Yesterday, Josh and I biked all the world over and every now and then I’d get the sweet whiff of a flower or a lilac, which are blooming like crazy right now. It’s such a beautiful time of year. I went on a bike ride Friday, too, and on this ride I confirmed that Spring 2.0 has arrived. This is a revelation that came to me as I saw that there are green leaves atop all the trees now and wildflowers are starting to pop up all over the place. So, if this is Spring 2.0, you might be wondering what comes prior to it? Well, it’s like this (brace yourself…here comes even MORE talk of weather):

Sunday, March 20, 2016 was the first official day of spring. Really, though, this is just a date on the calendar to mark an astronomical event: the vernal equinox. This occurs when the sun is shining directly on the equator. The vernal equinox marks the day when both day and night are roughly equal. It is when the northern hemisphere (where we are!) begins pointing toward the sun, thus opening the door to longer days and, eventually, warmer weather. In Michigan this means nothing, though. At the onset of spring, we still have months to go before we can hear the first whispers of spring. (This was not the case in NC where I previously lived. There, I’d find crocuses blooming in February and daffodils in early March.) So, basically, the first phase of spring, I realized as I biked along the River Trail on Friday, is also the last burst of Winter. Or, you could also look at it as Old Man Winter’s Last Laugh. The first phase of spring is marked by cold, damp, an occasional burst of snow, and an occasional peek of sun and warmth. Spring 2.0 begins when there are more trees budding with flowers and with green leaves decorating their limbs than bare trees. When you begin to see the wildflowers and get random mouthfuls of bugs on your bike rides, that’s when you know you can begin to rest easy. The chirping birds are here to stay. You can take the flannel sheets off your bed and ignore your sock drawer for the next several months. Spring 2.0 is also characterized by friendly neighbors and passersby you encounter on your walks and bike rides. People will smile at you and greet you. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

So all that is to say that yesterday Josh and I spent hours on our bikes to usher in Spring 2.0, and also to have a belated anniversary celebration. On our bikes we: got coffee, went through Scott Woods leading up to Hawk Island Park, found a new-to-us pathway that showed us Lansing sites we’d never encountered before, biked to REO Town and got bbq for the first time at Saddleback BBQ, went to Old Town and up to Turner Dodge House, then finished out the day with about 9 more miles out to Clinton County and back.

Exhausting? Oh, yes. But so, so fun. We ended the day with a few friends at the house and a homemade tofu curry…and ice cream for dessert.

 

My weekend things!

moments on a bike

Favorites:

  1. The first time I biked to work. I didn’t have a bike, so I borrowed my husband’s. I biked up what I perceived to be a big hill, felt like a badass, and then got lost when I couldn’t find access to the River Trail.
  2. The day I found the River Trail and decided Lansing might not be so bad. It was a Saturday or Sunday in May 3 years ago. I had to work a shift at a special event for work and had a bit of time to kill. Josh was…somewhere (refereeing soccer maybe?). I hopped on his bike and putzed around, sticking to the sidewalks and slowly, slowly venturing further. I don’t quite remember how I found the River Trail; I just remember arriving there and soaking up the sun of what felt like the first sunny day since the previous early fall. Lansing, I decided, was an okay place to live.
  3. Anytime I bike through the woods approaching Hawk Island.
  4. Anytime I see animals like deer, raccoon, rabbits, or unusual birds.
  5. Biking with my husband.
  6. Biking up north, along M-22 on our mini bike tour last September. I mean…that  weekend was pretty much perfect.
  7. Making it to the top of a hill.
  8. Biking down hills.
  9. The first time I biked 20 miles.
  10. The first time I biked 30 miles.
  11. That one time I biked 40 miles (and almost barfed).
  12. Biking around Mackinac Island on a tandem bike with Josh.
  13. Listening to good music (Van Morrison), a good podcast (2 Dope Queens), or a great book (Yes, Please by Amy Poehler) while biking.

Least Favorites:

  1. Bonking on any long ride. It’s super hard to recover from a bonk.
  2. Sometimes I assume hopping on a bike will improve my mood if I’m feeling angry, frustrated, or sad. Usually this is the case, but sometimes it is not. Those rides are hard and feel like a chore.
  3. The time I was harassed while biking in a bike lane by some joker in a van that was practically held together with duct tape.
  4. That time I biked 40 miles (and almost barfed).
  5. Biking on my light-as-a-feather road bike on a windy day. When the wind picks up and pushes you to the left or right, it’s truly frightening.
  6. I love the River Trail and the access it provides to folks on bikes, runners, walkers, dog walkers, roller bladers, and skate boarders. I am filled with rage; however, when any of the above exercise poor etiquette when it comes to sharing this path. Stay on your side! Be aware! Share the trail!
  7. Biking somewhere…and then having to deal with torrential rain when it’s time to bike home.
  8. We biked up lots of hills while on our mini bike tour, but there was one hill, in particular, that almost killed me dead. This hill just would not end. A person going on a casual walk could have probably passed me as they walked up that hill. I hated that hill.
  9. Potholes. Sweet holy mother. Nothing makes me grumpier on a ride than potholes that cause me to swerve on a road that is already lacking a bike lane. Practically as bad: potholes that have been “filled.” Those really stink, too.
  10. Biking anywhere that is not bike friendly or lacking in bike infrastructure. Biking on busy streets or in areas you only feel “safe” on a sidewalk is never fun and always stressful.

The End.

moments on a bike