Reflections and Aspirations on 1 January

January first. Another new year. In some ways, 2021 seemed to last forever. Maybe it just seems that way because the days of 2020 and 2021 blurred together in seemingly endless restrictions and social distancing.

Then again, it seems like we just celebrated the 2021 new year, hoping for better days. In some ways, that did happen. In some ways, 2021 was more of the same. Regardless, while the days may have dragged, the months seemed to fly by as the weeks were marked off. And now here we are on the cusp of a new year.

For me, the first day of the new year means making plans for the new year as well as taking time to reflect back on the prior year.

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Top 20 in 2020

Two thousand twenty. Twenty-twenty. 2020

I’m sitting here on the cusp of the New Year, looking back over the last 12 months. And what a year was 2020.

And in looking back, I decided to list my Top 20 of 2020 broken down into Top 5s in 4 categories.

1-5 — Top 5 Books I Read in 2020

I had a stellar reading year. I read 235 books. Yes, some of these were rereads, but I always have some rereads. I always have a hard time choosing any fave, but I highly recommend these 5 (in no particular order).

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune – a young adult urban fantasy about a group of orphaned magical youth and their case worker. I found this story so enchanting and whimsical with beautiful prose. The book has great character development, wonderful world-building, and imaginative characters. I fell in love with each and every one of the orphans. And as lovely and wonderful as the story is, this story is also a timely read. Because this is a story about being different, about living authentically, about fighting prejudices and stereotypes, and about changing the system by changing the minds of one person at a time. This is a story that asks tough questions. That demands us to question our preconceived notions. That examines what it means to be a family, to be our authentic self, to be alive instead of just living. This is a story to be read and reread. To be cherished. And to be shared.

Becoming by Michelle Obama – I always liked Michelle Obama. Now I even respect her even more. What an amazing and inspiring story. I listened to the audiobook while following along with the physical book. I loved hearing Michelle read her own story. I particularly enjoyed hearing about her early life growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I understand her desire to not be in politics, but I think she would make a great political leader. And then I recommend following up with the Netflix documentary about her book tour.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith – an intriguing premise and from the first chapter, I immediately loved Claire:

Claire lived by the firm moral philosophy that one could never have too many pockets, too many books, or too much tea.

The idea that unwritten stories exist in their own library that’s in hell, but not completely a part of hell. And that librarians are normally deceased mortals who once were these unwritten stories authors. So imaginative with fantastic world-building and character building. I loved it so much I read it in one day. This is truly a book dedicated to stories.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – this book provides an eloquent discussion on race and institutional racism in the UK. While it is UK-specific, the broad discussions about racism, structural racism, feminism, and class are applicable anywhere. Ms. Eddo-Lodge clearly did an immense amount of research and is a testament to the book’s truth. This book is an important read and a great resource to start the hard discussions. Racism is a real and persistent problem. And it’s going to take voices like Ms. Eddo-Lodge to help facilitate the tough dialogue to find solutions

The Wolves at the Door by Judith L. Pearson – a nonfiction book that reads like a fiction spy thriller about America’s greatest female spy. She did so much important work during WWII that THREE governments honored her with their highest civilian honors. This was such an incredible read. Not only did she have to overcome the challenges of gender (which funnily enough she faced more after the war), but also disability. Her story is one that should be a must-read.

5-10 — Top 5 Puzzles I Completed in 2020

As an avid jigsaw puzzler, I completed a lot of puzzles this year. I don’t keep track of numbers (haven’t found a puzzle tracking app yet).

The Season Tree by Schmidt Puzzle
Rebel Girls by Gibsons Puzzles
Waiting for Our Humans by Better Co.
Garden Peacock by SunsOut
Sleepy Time by Vermont Christmas Co.

11-15 — Top 5 Moments I Had in 2020

  • Going to London with one of my besties to celebrate my birthday
  • Meeting one of my penpals and dear friends in real life
  • Moving to Okinawa
  • Eating at the Chicken Shack in Iwakuni
  • Collecting sea glass on Sea Glass Beach

16-20 — Top 5 Balcony View I Photographed in 2020

And that’s my Top 20 for 2020.

What were some of your top 20s in 2020?

Playing The Glad Game

Recently, I have been mega-stressed, frustrated, and generally down. Being furloughed and not getting paid for 4 weeks because of the shutdown tops the list of reasons why.

Then as I’ve found, misery breeds more misery. Once you get on the misery merry-go-round, sometimes it’s hard to get off. When one major thing goes cattywampus for me, I then tend to find more and more things to get upset about. It doesn’t help that every time I turn on the television/read the news/scan social media, the messages all seem to be negative.

Miserableness, mega-stress, negativity are all bad for you. Bad for your physical health. Bad for your mental health. Bad for your emotional health. All of which cycles back into more stress, more misery, more negativity. It can be a vicious cycle.

Enter the Glad Game.

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New Year, New Lessons: Stay Out of the Kitchen

After a rather long hiatus, I’m on a roll this week with posting. I decided to write try an entire week of “New Year” posts. (This also helps me meet my 500 words per day goal for the winter writing festival.)

Continuing on the New Year theme, today’s topic is New Lessons or Why I Should Stay Out of the Kitchen.

At this point, I’d like to clarify here that I’m not really learning “new” lessons per se. It’s more that I’m being reminded of things I already knew, but because of brain freezes, inattention, or just general stupidity on my part, I clearly needed a reminder.

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New Year, New Challenges: Reading & Writing

After writing and publishing yesterday’s post, I feel refreshed and newly inspired. So taking a page from my own advice and letting go of things I cannot control, I turn to things I can control—reading and writing challenges!

Although I didn’t finish all the challenges that I signed onto in 2018, I enjoyed the process of going through the various challenges, learned a lot, and completed more than I would have otherwise.

Yes, there can be success in failing.

But this is a new year, so that means new challenges. And I’ve already signed up for a few.

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New Year, New Problems: 3 Ways to Deal With Stress

Happy 2019!

(Hey, I’m only a week late. Of course, we won’t mention the fact that I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of October. shhh!)

But I have a good excuse. The past few months have been a roller coaster. A rather crazy ride of ups and downs with job interviews and the inevitable waiting, second interviews and more waiting, holidays, the shutdown, and getting ready to move across the country. So see? Good excuses.

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