Something shiny to focus on.

October 22, 2014

Last Wednesday was report card pick-up night. I’ve come to dread report card nights. I love, love, love the ability to chat with teachers and get a really in-depth idea of how my children are doing. I like that they can put a face with the neurotic notes I send to school, hoping those notes seem slightly less neurotic in future…but I dread report card nights all the same.

It’s Bee. Gracie might have a small clause of censure buried in all the very predictable words of praise, but she’s a straight-A student (usually), and even her stumbles are, as I’ve said, predictable and easily correctable. Bee, on the other hand, continues to be my special snowflake. Don’t get me wrong – Bee is absolutely dazzling and I have fallen in love all over again with the person my girl has become at eight-years-old. But as a student…well, Bee has some issues. And for a mama who watches her struggle each night over homework and sees her try so hard to understand concepts and try to do better, it’s utterly heartbreaking when she doesn’t get the grades she so desperately wants. I’m sure I looked a bit like Bee-girl herself, dragging my feet and looking glum as I forced myself into the school.

Thankfully, news was a bit better than I had hoped. Bee isn’t failing any classes (HUZZAH! my heart yelled!, and um, maybe my mouth yelled, too). She has only one C, in reading (because spelling doesn’t count), and some “Needs improvement”s in areas she’s not allowed to have them, but mostly Bee’s report card was filled with lovely, glorious Bs. That’s rather stellar for Bee-girl. I had a lovely, honest discussion with Bee’s teachers about her personality-type and why I shouldn’t panic about all of the redo’s and failing grades on tests and struggles. Bee isn’t quite doomed yet to a life of minimum wage and limited opportunities. But she does need to focus more and practice always. These are things I know. But I did hear from both teachers that Bee’s reading has improved and all of the hours we’re logging practicing those skills are paying off.

Here’s where the “something shiny” comes in. Another common theme with adorable Miss Bee is that her confidence is a bit lagging. If Bee doesn’t get something, if she reaches the point where she feels defeated, she shuts down. Nothing gets in, nothing gets better. She cries and pouts and it’s all I can do not to shout at her to quit acting like a two-year-old. Ahem. But it’s because she has no faith that she can get around what she just doesn’t get. She has no confidence in her learning abilities. So she needs that confidence. She needs to participate in something she’s really good at, something where she’s not following along in her sister’s shadow. And that thing, my friends, is gymnastics.

Bee’s a kinesthetic learner. Her grace and connection with her body is absolute; a trait neither her sister nor I share. She excelled at dance the summer she took classes. She’s picked up all sorts of gymnastic moves from J. and N. across the street. She’s begged for lessons. But money is tight and our schedule is very nearly tighter. But sometimes you need to make sacrifices for important matters. Important matters like education. And confidence.

I told Bee that if she can get all As and Bs on her report card, her dad and I would find the money and the time in our family schedules to take her to gymnastics. You guys, you have never seen a face light up quite like Bee-girl’s! This is the right incentive. I might have to freelance every spare moment I have, but I will find a way if Bee does. And the bait seems to have worked, too – Bee’s teacher walked out to Stepmom’s car on Friday during pick-up to tell her that Bee was the only student to score 100 on the spelling test (WHAAA?) and the poetry test. The poetry I’m less surprised about – it’s fragmented, marches it its own beat, and is dancy and sparkly, just like Bee-girl. Of course she gets that. I was so proud!

So here we go. We’re all in. Either this is going to be the moment when Bee drills down – so far, so good – or when her spirit is crushed forever. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting on Bee. And finally, she is too.

This better save an awful lot of sanity.

October 21, 2014

You guys – I did a crazy thing. Yes, I know: that’s not that extraordinary. But this, this is really crazy. I bought a planner. An Erin Condren planner. Told you – batcrap crazy.

I’ve tried planners before. When I started here at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeDiscussed, they bought me a very nice leather DayTimer, and then (because they were all the rage) a Palm Pilot. I used them a little, but not really enough. I even picked the DayTimer back up a few years later and gave it another go, but I had problems writing everything down. I couldn’t make it a habit. I had Outlook at work to keep my day nice and tidy, but when it came to integrating my work schedule and personal schedule? Checking in after I left work? Whoops. I had the same results when I tried to use my wedding and pregnancy planners. I’d start off with the best of intentions, only to find the rest of the planner was gloriously untouched. Clearly planners were not for me.

But then this past month happened. Things at work were crazier than usual – I know because I was using my long forgotten Lamaze breathing to get through the day. Added to that, I had eight bagillion things going on in my personal life, and there weren’t enough sticky notes and lists in the world to keep me afloat. It was bad. I was anxious all of the time, trying to keep track of everything. Never had lists failed me so hard.

And then a friend posted about her planner that had just arrived. Her personalized planner, filled with all sorts of goodies and add-ons. She went on about how excited she was and generally, well, unknowingly sold the product to me. Before I knew it, I was on Erin Condren’s Web site, looking to see what the fuss was about, watching promotional videos and checking out the different covers I could choose. Before I knew it, I was daydreaming about all of the ways I could track the craziness governing my days. I’d have one place to look to keep track of to-do lists, appointments, deadlines, meal plans…

But I’m not the kind of person who uses a planner. I’m a curious mix of old-school physical lists (and sticky notes – don’t forget the sticky notes) and 21st century technology. I might use sticky notes to remind me about a doctor’s appointment, but I keep my running grocery list in my notes section on my phone. Could I actually use the planner enough to justify the absolutely INSANE price?

I gambled, in a moment of weakness, on the answer being yes. I picked out my covers, chose my personalization, and added a few extras, like the rubber bands to keep the planner tidily closed, and the wire clips to keep things like invitations attached instead of loose-leaf. I know I’m going to migrate towards some sort of color-coding system before long, but…

Good god, what have I done? Yes, I’m still having moments like that, despite the fact that I know several people who use these planners and adore them. Mostly I’m gobsmacked by how much money I put down on a binder. A ridiculous amount of money, when you consider I could have purchased a notebook and calendar for $2 at Walmart. My yankee heart is crying tears into my empty pocketbook. But another part of me – the part of me that rather enjoys color-coding and list-making and sanity-keeping – is relishing in all the possibilities.

So let’s see. Let’s see if we can make this experiment work and turn the tide of anxiety. At least now, if things go well, I will know exactly how many things I’m supposed to be doing, all at the same time.




Final thoughts on this weekend’s #Readathon.

October 20, 2014

What an experience! I feel like my first #Readathon really was like a rearders’ holiday: the great commotion and anticipation leading up to the day, the absolutely insane atmosphere the day of, and then then oh-my-gosh where’d-it-all-go-ness right after. Given that, I wanted to capture a few thoughts about my day while they’re still swirling around.

Reading: The actual reading was a little different than I thought. I anticipated more time in the trenches when it felt like I was slogging it out. The “ugh – more reading” feeling didn’t hit until much, much later than I thought – maybe about 4ish? That’s Hour 10, people. I can do ten hours of reading without feeling it. Hunh. In fact, I kept wish I had more time to sit and “just” read! Between letting the dog in and out, the mini-challenges, social media, and cheering, there were blocks of time when I spent more online than I did in my book.

Social media: Cheering is the absolute BEST, you guys! The lists were a little long, so I didn’t get to “hang out”, per se, and really get invested in any new reading friends, but I did hit all 70 people sent my way. I ended up breaking it up so I would cheer for this section during one break, that section during another, but I think it all worked out. I also spent a goodish amount of time answering tweets, and posted a few updates to Facebook so the fam could keep up with how I was doing (they are not twitterers). I felt compelled to write an update or two for the blog, just because I had nattered on about it so much last week. And by the time I had done all of that, I really didn’t have any time left for mini-challenges. I participated in the first one or two, just because I was awake! and reading! and DOIN’ IT ALL! But by the third hour, I realized I was going to have to jettison some things overboard if I was going to, you know, actually read. So the challenges were sacrificed. I felt bad; I felt like I was missing out on a big part of the online party, but I knew it was necessary.

Snacking: Most people talking about the readathon also talked about their snacking plans and I totally bought in! I would pick up this! and that! And have this fancypants treat for lunch! and… well, none of it really happened. I did treat myself to some poached eggs and hash browns, and later splurged on take-out sushi for dinner, but…that was it. No snacking on all the snacks for me.

The Wall: It was Hour 17 for me. I was exhausted, despite my frequent breaks to hop online, my phone call with my sister to break things up, and the quick trip outta the house to grab dinner. I had read three books already and was trying to push through my fourth and I just. wanted. to sleep. It was a great book (Wonder, by R.J. Palacio); the pace was quick, the voice was catchy, the plot was interesting… I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I tried jumping jacks, I tried a hot bath, I tried chatting online. Finally I gave in, dragged a couple books with me into bed, and read there.

The Results: Sometime after 1 a.m., I fell asleep. You could say I failed to hit the 24-hour challenge. And I did. But you know what? It’s FOR FUN. So it doesn’t bother me so much. I read for most of ‘em. I read four books. In a single day. I met some amazing people online and had a wonderful time. I felt so accomplished on Sunday. It was lovely.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I would probably make sure I got more sleep the night before. My experiment in staying up late two night in a row didn’t work because I am apparently an old woman who can do no such thing. Heh. And I might pace myself better in the early hours. Other than that, the entire thing was incredible. I can’t wait for the next one!

#Readathon Update: Hour 14!

October 18, 2014

I cannot believe we’re already on the downhill side of this day! I know the going will get tougher as it hour grows later and I want to sleeeeep. But I feel like I’ve barely read at all! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve moved around so much, or because I spent a goodish amount of time cheering. But these past thirteen hours have gone by in a blink!

I did feel a bit done with reading about four o’clock this afternoon. So I stretched, made some tea, started some laundry and settled back in. Not long after, Kim called, so I stopped to talk to her. Then I called in a to-go order and ran to get some sushi and edamame and calamari. (Reading books while eating sushi with chopsticks? I feel like I’m playing “grown-up” – it’s divine!)
So now I’m rejuvenated and ready to plunge back into storyland. I’ll sink back into the spell of Wonder and finish that off shortly. And then I have a scary – SCARY - read by the name of Bird Box that everyone has promised will keep me awake all night.
14 hours. Three books. 900+ pages. And just a little over halfway done with the #Readathon. Not bad at all!

#Readathon Update: Hour 7

October 18, 2014

Good news: I finished another book! David Gillham’s absolutely phenomenally written¬†City of Women, about a young Berlin wife who becomes part of The Cause and smuggles Jews out of Berlin during the height of the war. Oh, and has lots of sex that even Stephen King described as “hot-hot-hot”, which is all kinds of wrong, and yet, is not entirely inaccurate. Five of Five stars to the book you guys. Really – it was character rich, complicated, plotty and twisty.

Bad news: You guys, the book destroyed me. I was a mess of nerves for the second half, waiting to see what would happen. Then, the ending (which, really, isn’t anything you’re thinking) just gutted me. Loved some parts of it, accepted some parts of it, and thought other parts were just all kinds of wrong. The story is great – I just am emotionally drained. And it’s only Hour 7! Who cares that I have 800+ pages of reading done! Who cares if I wanted to get more accomplished! My heart is saying no mas!!!

So I’m going to go do some cheering for my #readathon peeps, make some hot tea, and find a lighthearted book to read in a hot bath. Not a bad plan.

#Readathon Mini-Challenge: Coffee or Tea?

October 18, 2014

Coffee or tea? Well, er, um…both. But mornings are unabashedly reserved for coffee. As much as I can drink today! So here you go. Later this afternoon I’ll switch to tea as I do most afternoons, but how people can wake up without coffee is beyond me…


Fueling up as I make my way through the second half of book 2! #TeamTrollope all the way! (Er…ish.)

#Readathon Opening Meme

October 18, 2014

Good morning!! I’m so excited and ready to get going. Of course, my morning would have gone better had my post, you know, actually posted, but who needs order?? Right. So…

1) What part of the world am I reading from today?

I’m reading from the DFW metroplex in North Texas, where it will be a bit cool this morning and evening (lows in the low 60s) and warmer in the middle part of the day (highs in the upper 70s), so I’m getting the best of both worlds: comfy blanket reading and lounging on the patio. Sweet!

2) Which book in my stack am I most looking forward to today?

Hands down – Bird Box by Josh Malerman. I heard it’s scared the living daylights out of some trusted readers, so I plan to use that fact to keep me awake tonight. Screaming, possibly, but awake!

3) What snack am I most looking forward to today?

I’m making a mad dash for some take-out sushi and edemame later. Yes, weird reading food, I know. But it’s a splurge-y type of day and that’s what I want for dinner!

4) Tell you a little about myself.

This is my first Dewey’s Readathon and I’m so excited! I’m a giant book nerd, so this is like early Christmas for me. And the community has been incredible. Jaw-dropping, really!

5) If I participated before, what’s the one thing you’ll do differently today? If this is my first, what am I most looking forward to?

I’m most looking forward to seeing what everyone reads and finding new book buddies. I know some people are reading a few of my favorite books today and I cannot wait to see what they think!! Watching people read your favorite books is actually one of my favorite all-time things. It’s an immediate bonding experience.

So there you have it! Okay enough writing – back to reading!!

#Readathon Hour 2: One book down.

October 18, 2014

Morning, all! Yes, there’s going to be a bunch of choppy updates here today. Not my usual style, but think of them as little love letters sent in from my mysterious remote location! Okay, or from my house – whatever.

My first ever readathon started out with a nice comfy read in bed. A bit predictable when hear I went to be after 1:30 a.m. Ooof. That’s gonna hurt later. But my morning read was lovely…even if the book wasn’t. Ellen Ullman’s By Blood just wasn’t what I was hoping. A researcher on sabbatical takes an office in a seedy part of town and through circumstances beyond his control begins eavesdropping on the therapist and patient next door. He secretly begins helping the patient investigate her adoption…and chaos ensues. Except I didn’t care much about the chaos or the fantastic premise because the author’s writing was so dang clinical and detached.

So disappointing. 1 book, 1 star out of 5.

Oh, the places I’ll read!

October 14, 2014

My preparations for the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon that takes place this Saturday continue! Last night I crept about the house searching out my likely reading spots. Then I commissioned Gracie to help snap pics as I tested out said cushy lounging spots.

SodaHere’s where I do most of my day-reading: propped on the couch. Although you’ll usually find me sitting up, with my feet kicked up on the coffee table. When my back starts protesting, I’ll flop backwards, with my head cushioned on one armrest and my feet on the other. With any luck, it’ll be chilly enough on Saturday to burrow under some blankets. Is anything more divine than reading during the first cold snap of the season? Pro: I can give lots of lovin’ to Fenway while lounging on the couch, all without disturbing my rhythm. Con: The couch doesn’t stay comfortable for long. I’ll have to switch it up every hour or so.

BedAnother favorite spot for reading is my bed. When I steal some reading time during the day and can’t camp out on the couch (usually because the girlies are home and are causing a racket), I throw the blankets back and flop down crossways. It throws me off enough so I’m not tempted to fall asleep – because of magic or something, who knows. At night, I burrow down under my covers and read curled up on my pillow. So even though that’s what I’m doing here, I probably won’t be doing much of that on Saturday or else I’m bound to take a few more cat naps than I intended! Pro: My bed is super-comfy for long stretches of time. I can hit a pretty good reading zen state. Con: My bed is where I sleep. Once I hit those tougher late hours, reading in bed is a good way to tempt myself with sleeeeep, beautiful sleeeeep.


A likely spot for when I need to switch things up – the overstuffed recliner. I don’t sit in the recliner very often. (Mostly it’s Gracie’s seat.) It sits at an odd angle to the TV, I don’t have room to spread out (I can’t just watch TV – I do things), and it squeaks, but it is very good for reading. It’s a great alternative for when I need to read sitting up for a spell, but with a bit more support. And if it’s chilly out, the chair is made of the warmest, comfiest corduroy material you’ve ever felt. Pro: The “newness” of sitting in the chair will help wake me up if I’m feeling drowsy. And if it’s cold, the chair is awfully snugly. Con: If it’s sweltering, no one wants to sit on the super-warm chair. Also, it’s so squeaky I will go nuts if I move too much. Ugh.


The patio! One of my absolute favorite places to read! It will need to be warmer to tempt me out of the house, but hanging out in the sunshine and gulping down some stories is one of my favorite ways to spend time. The Vitamin C is bound to help wake me (or put me to sleep – two-edged sword, that sunshine is), as is the change of scenery. Also, getting outside and letting Fenway run around like a mad dog will help burn off some of her energy. I know for a fact that you can read and throw the ball to your dog over and over and over without missing a beat. Pro: It’s one of my happy places. Con: It has to be warm enough. Otherwise I’ll be huddling outside with a blanket and a constant mug of tea, which isn’t bad, but the 23982394 trips to the bathroom (because of said tea) are.

BathOh yes I did! Who doesn’t love to read in the bathtub? In fact, it’s where I keep my collection of memoirs. (Ignore the can of paint – it’s serving as a temporary bookstop.)¬† It’ll be a great way to break up the later hours when I need something to wake me up. Also, if it’s chilly that day (I say that a lot, don’t I?), the hot water will help, what with all the stationary reading and all. Pro: This definitely counts as a change of scenery! Con: You can’t check social media from your relaxing bath – electronics and water don’t mix. And if it’s a gazillion degrees in Tejas, hot baths don’t really go over well.

Okay, but what if the house just isn’t doing it for you? What if you really, really need to change things up? I’vePedi thought of that, too. Don’t worry – I have back-up plans.

There’s the overstuffed chairs and caffeinated goods at Barnes and Noble. I can hang out, wake myself up, and dip into new books all in one go! Remember the 24 hours are whatever you make of them. Give yourself permission to drive places if you need a change of pace or scenery. I could also load an audiobook and hit the trail for a long walk, or grab a book or two and read while eating lunch out. Oooh, or getting my nails done! Vary it up if you find you’re growing bored or falling asleep!

DinandOne last one. Here’s where I wish I were reading – my alma mater, Holy Cross, safe in the bowels of Dinand. I could move around to various favorite corners and hidey-holes in that library and happily read away all 24 hours without once feeling bored. I even know for a fact that you can safely nap and pick up right where you left off, all without feeling the least bit weird for sleeping in public. Pro: Oh my god, all of the happy! Back home! In my favorite library! READING! Con: That would be a very pricey ticket.

The bottom line is to have fun. Change it up when you need to – or don’t. Find what works for you. Scoping it all out ahead of time can be fun, but if you don’t have time (or the inclination), don’t worry about it. Read-a-thons are nothing more than to let our happy, well-adjusted, neurotic selves geek out for a day. However you want to get your geek out – go for it!

Because every #Readathon should start with a plan.

October 13, 2014

The bookish underworld that exists on Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr and… well, let’s not name all the sites – that exists everywhere, basically, if you know where to look – this bookish world is awesome and it is filled with awesome people. For these bookish people invent things like Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, and honestly, how cool is that?!

Yeah, okay, if you’re not a bookish person, a Reader with a capital “R”, it probably sounds a little insane. Reading? For 24 hours straight? Probably not your thing. Especially when you hear that the only prize is bragging rights. But that is exactly my thing. An excuse to devour story after story, reveling in the festive atmosphere all of the participants create online, finding that Next Great Book that just gets you – sign me up!

After I finished jumping for joy and running in circles, I decided I needed a plan. And let me tell you – my plan might be a little nuts.

Book1Books I already own. I gathered up books I already own (or that have been loaned to me) that I have been meaning to read. Wonder and Mister Max I lifted from my 10-year-old’s shelf. Lucky Us, Blueprints for Building Better Girls and Falling Man I picked up recently at the used bookstore. Things Unspoken my friend at work loaned to me, and Eats Shoots & Leaves arrived from my sister this past week. Bird Box is near the top of my To Read list – it’s scaring the socks off of everyone I’ve heard from, and I figured that might be just the ticket come the later hours of the night when all I want to do is sleep!


The Kindle. In case nothing I have on hand catches my fancy, I have my trusty Kindle charged and at the ready! I love the idea that millions of titles are available instantly, without me needing to ever leave my house. While I prefer reading physical books over ebooks, I found last year that my split was about 80-20 (physical/kindle), a lot higher percentage for e-reading than I would have thought. I like that the libraries I belong to all have generous e-content catalogs, and even if I decide to purchase rather than borrow, I have the ability to read the first chapter before committing my funds. Not a bad back-up plan.

Book5More books! I stopped at the library on Saturday to load up on other books, just in cases. (I’m a little paranoid, no?) I like the idea that I can just keep tossing books aside if they’re not grabbing me. While I am a big believer in DNF (not finishing books just to finish), I usually try to push through and give a book 50-100 pages, depending on length, before I pitch a book for good. But during the Readathon, when I have to keep myself extra invested, I want to make sure I don’t turn myself off or make myself sleepy or anything else. I want commitment! I want page-turning excitement! I want to come out of this with at least one book I can not shut up about! And so I borrowed 27 books from the library.

Book4This is what they looked like when I lugged all those books home. (Sorry, sore back.) That there is one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever: a genuine book bag like the ones the library used to use when moving books about the system. And it’s stamped Boston because OF COURSE. It fits about 30 books, or one eight-year-old, if you’re wondering. As for the titles I brought home: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet; Seating Arrangements; Flatscreen; Loteria; By Blood; A Prayers for the Dying; The Echo Maker; The Rook; The Lost Wife; Lessons in French; The Book of Jonah; The Fever Tree; The House at Tyneford; Death with Interruptions; In the Shadow of the Banyan; Panorama City; The Emperor’s Children; Before, During, After; The Barter; The Enchanted; Close My Eyes; Rage Is Back; What’s Left of Me; The Waking Dark; Two Boys Kissing; Summer and Bird; and Between the Lines.

If all of that fails – or even if it doesn’t – and I need a change of scenery, I can always hang out at Barnes and Noble and read there in a comfy overstuffed chair until they close up shop, or pull up a latte and a sofa chair at Starbucks. I have lots and lots of plans and back up plans and really only one goal: finish one book I really, really love. I’m sure I’ll real more than just one – I managed five during the 24-in-48 Readathon I participated in this spring – but I want to find at least one new book that makes me fall head over heels.

So there you have it! Plans, back-up plans, and entirely too many books. Now I just have to scope and prep some locations in the house to lounge while I’m devouring all of the books. I’m thinking lounge chair on the patio…bed…the couch…and maybe the overstuffed recliner? I’ll let you know.

What about you? Are you participating in the Read-a-thon? Any particular books you’re looking forward to reading?


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