Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Happy New Year! SET SOME GOALS!!"

Dear 2013,

I'm glad you got here (yay for not dying in the Mayan apocalypse that was never going to happen anyway!), but… Are resolutions really necessary? It just feels like a lot of pressure. And I think I've had enough of feeling pressured to finish a certain thing in a certain amount of time for quite awhile. (Grad school was more than enough pressure for me, thanks!)

I mean, I've already got some goals. My ultimate goal for a while now has been to finish 50 books in one year, but I've failed at that pretty spectacularly over the past couple years thanks to being in school - so I'm being kind and just setting myself a goal of 35 books for this year.

Okay, so that is just one goal.

I do definitely want to move into my own apartment. Aha! A resolution: get own apartment! (Fingers crossed I can get that one checked off before the end of January. I will be a goal-reaching machine! Or at least get to feel like a total resolution champ.)

I think I'm pretty okay fitness-wise. I work out regularly, and I've been doing really well at that for the past several years. I don't see that situation changing for any reason, so I can't do the "normal" resolution to be more active. I refuse on principle to resolve to lose weight (because I think that puts the focus on the wrong aspect of health) (and only in very small part because I don't want to have to buy a new wardrobe if my clothes get too big). I suppose I could resolve to "eat healthier" than I do… but I'm flat-out unwilling to give up baked goods, I see no reason to give up gluten when I'm not allergic to it (it's a pet-peeve of mine anyway that people who aren't even sensitive to it suddenly think that gluten is the devil and they have to give it up for no medical reason), and I love dairy and meat too much to really give those up either (vegetarianism just wouldn't work well for me, and veganism is right out). So those stereotypical resolutions don't really fit.

I would like to get more crafting done. But again, I don't want to put more pressure on myself than I feel is necessary, and achieving my one resolution should help in that department anyway since it'll be easier for me to access all my supplies and tools all the time.

I really, really want a dog of my own. But I am responsible enough not to get one before I have my own place (since my parents dog is the absolute sweetest with people but is often fearful of (and thus aggressive toward) other dogs), and even after I have my own place I'll need to take some time to establish what sort of routines I'll have there and decide if I actually have the time and energy (not to mention money!) to devote to a dog. So I'm not going to resolve to get a dog, when that might turn out to be a bad idea for me and the absolute worst idea for the dog. (How adult of me to know my limits!)

So my New Year's resolution/goal list looks like this:
  • RESOLUTION: get own apartment
  • GOAL: read 35 books (although 50 would be supreme)
  • GOAL: do more crafting (so unquantifiable! Which is exactly how they tell you NOT to set goals. Oh, well.)

I have thought of two more possible goals: Visit friends in DC, and visit friends in Boston. Both of these are things I would love to do this year, and I have tentative plans forming already. But, as with the dog goal, life could have other opportunities and obstacles that could preclude either or both of these visits. If the trips happen, they'll be amazing. If I end up not being able to go, it will be disappointing, but not the end of the world. (I feel so gosh-darned adult, taking time to actually consider the implications of my goals and how I'll feel about not reaching them!)

Do I fail at New Year's if I've only got one real resolution? I hope not!




(I'm awesome.)

I should resolve that, at the beginning of every month, I will evaluate my current resolutions/goals, as well as contemplating whether there are additional resolutions/goals I could add to the list, either for the month or the rest of the year. (Do I think I could make lunch plans with several old friends? Could I try something to help manage my shyness? Should I do something really brave every week?) Two resolutions ain't too shabby!

I guess, overall, I can just be satisfied with the fact that 2012 was a pretty good year - certainly better than 2011 was for me - with plenty of ups to offset the downs, and then do my best to make 2013 better!

Cheers to you, 2013! Let's make this a good one!

Yours with hope,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Books of 2012

    I managed to finish 28 books in 2012. (I think the max I've read in one year - at least since I've been keeping track of them - has been 39. And that was one of the years I spent my summer in a place with sporadic internet access, so I fell back on my first love to pass the time.) Some of them (particularly the more YA-type novels) I read as part of a personal effort to try and actually read every book on my shelf, a goal made more difficult when I can't always remember whether I've read something or not! I've included notes on some books, which you might or might not be interested in. The 28 books were:

    1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, finished 1/9/2012
      • Part of my quasi-annual reread. It was just as good as always!
    1. Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle, finished 1/23/2012
      • Because it was on my shelf and I didn't remember reading it. On finishing, I definitely had read it before. But I enjoyed the reread anyway.
    1. Switcheroo by Olivia Goldsmith, finished 2/11/2012 
      • Not that I only read romance novels for the sex, but when I read something that has clearly been marketed as a romance novel and there turns out to be no sex scene, it's kind of disappointing. This book was kind of like a PG-13 movie - you get some kissing, but then it fades to black, so you're aware that sex has (probably) happened but you're not explicitly (Heh, see what I did there?) informed.
    1. Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium by Carl Sagan, finished 2/25/2012
    1. Peter Pan by J. M. Barry, finished 3/6/2012
    1. True North by Kathryn Lasky, finished 3/10/2012
    1. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle, finished 3/16/2012
    1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, finished 3/19/2012
      • A pre-movie reread.
    1. Dogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lani Diane Rich, finished 3/27/2012
      • Infinitely superior to Switcheroo! Actually, probably the best of the romance novels I read this year. There was a halfway decent plot with interesting characters, good writing, and, yes, actual sex scenes.
    1. The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith, finished 4/30/2012
      • I remember being… not so impressed with this one. Maybe I'd have liked it more if I read it when it was initially published back in the 1920s.
    1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, finished 5/23/2012
      • I've really grown to like Austen (and other more character-driven novels). It gives me hope that I'll enjoy J. K. Rowling's new novel when I get around to obtaining and reading it!
    1. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, finished 5/25/2012
    1. The Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle, finished 6/4/2012
    1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, finished 6/20/2012
    1. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, finished 6/24/2012
      • Read as part of a book club with some other grad students (until they gave up for the summer, and I finished it). Some sound ideas, overall, and definitely a useful book to keep around for reference! I should probably dig it out to help myself with writing blog posts and telling stories...
    1. Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James, finished 7/1/2012
    2. Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James, finished 7/12/2012
      • The infamous Fifty Shades series! Honestly, the "thrill" kind of wears off… well, even before you finish the first book. Those stories about these novels being slightly modified Twilight fanfiction? Pretty darn believable - and, let's be real, I've seen fanfiction with better writing, and that's all free. There is a slight possibility I got so bored with the series because I have issues with Bella Ana's character - many of her decisions just made me want to scream with frustration. Funny (relevant, I promise!) story: I picked up Twilight at Target once and got roughly 10 pages in before I had to put it down because I was so disgusted with Bella as a character. (I regularly read teen-directed books, and she reached unprecedented levels of angst and self-pity almost immediately. It was unbearable.) So, yeah, it's possible I would have enjoyed this more if it weren't (allegedly) based on characters I already couldn't stand reading about (or even watching in movies).
    1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling, finished 7/20/2012
      • For the read-along guided by the "Alohomora" podcast. If you're a total Potter-head like me, you should check them out!
    1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, finished 7/23/2012
    2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, finished 8/6/2012
      • Both of these were rereads, because I have problems not finishing a series once I've started it.
    1. Five Stories by Willa Cather, finished 8/18/2012
      • "The Enchanted Bluff," "Tom Outland's Story," "Neighbor Rosicky" - my favorite!, "The Best Years," and "Paul's Case"
    1. Winged Pharoah by Joan Grant, finished 11/7/2012
      • An interesting and thought-provoking read! Perhaps it's sacrilegious, but I regularly reevaluate my ideas regarding faith and religion based on secular media. This book definitely inspired some reflection!
    1. Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts, finished 11/10/2012
      • The facts I found most interesting were the ones that were obviously outdated - the book was published in the late 1980s.
    1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, finished 11/25/2012
      • So good! My mom and her neighbor are both hooked on these books, and I'm afraid they may have made a new convert in me.
    1. Taggerung by Brian Jacques, finished 12/1/2012
      • Stolen from my sister's bookshelf - after the "tidying" of my book boxes into a few stacks in one corner, such that they are incredibly difficult to access. I hadn't realized how much I missed Redwall until I (re?)read this!
    1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling, finished 12/6/2012
      • To go along with "Alohomora." Now my problem is that, as they move on to PoA, my copy is buried in the previously mentioned pile of boxes. I don't know which box it's in, and I'm not sure I have the wherewithal to go searching!
    1. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, finished 12/19/2012
      • Another of those character-driven British novels! Parts of it dragged a bit, but the story overall was a good one, if a bit tragic.
    1. Eragon by Christopher Paolini, finished 12/20/2012
      • Also stolen from my sister's shelf. Perhaps I'm too harsh in my judgement, but I was… less than impressed. I doubt I'll bother reading the other books in the series. This one just seemed to drag on f-o-r--e--v---e---r. Maybe I was overly influenced by some criticism I read/heard of when the book was first published, but it (like Fifty Shades) did in some cases just seem like poorly-adapted fanfiction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Seriously, "urgals" versus "orcs." Are we really fooling anyone there?) Plus, did I mention that it seemed to drag? I could not believe how long it took me to read. I suppose it could be from the "world-building" necessary in this kind of epic fantasy. And world-building is all well and good! But it generally requires an ability to, y'know, build worlds. Preferably without making your book feel tedious. It feels kind of wrong to say it, but I just didn't care about the characters or what happened to them, either. I'll admit, I'm idly curious about what happens in the next books, but not curious enough to actually put myself through the torture of reading them.

    So, that was what I managed to get finished in 2012! I'm currently working on a couple more books stolen from my sister's shelf - The Neverending Story and Undead and Unemployed. Hopefully I'll be moving into my own place soon - which means I'll once again have access to my books and can really work on getting them read!

    I usually set a goal for myself as far as how many books I'd like to read in the next year. Considering I don't have to worry about grad school anymore (school in general is a tremendous drain on reading-for-pleasure time!), I'll be ambitious and set a goal of 35 books. Books I'd like to read include The Casual Vacancy and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. And probably a reread of Let's Pretend this Never Happened, because it's so damn hilarious! (And recommendations are always accepted!)