Starting off 2013

I usually don’t make “New Year’s Resolutions”, simply because I don’t think this is always the best time of year to be starting new things. After the bustle of the holidays, winter sets in, and I’m up for a period of resting and recharging, not reorganizing my linen closet.

At least, that was my plan, but I’ve found myself setting up some mental goals in the last week anyway, maybe because so many other people are doing it. Instead of vague, unmeasurable goals though, I want to set up things that I can actually track. Maybe I will readjust my plans after a month or so, but at least I’d like to have some idea of whether I’ve stuck to these or not. As such, I’m not making goals for the whole year, just for the month of January. Ideally I can make some of these things into habits, and if I remember, I’ll revisit them in February. That seems more manageable to me.

So what are these goals?

Eat out only once per week.

My work schedule has changed from the 9-80 to a regular 40 hour, 5 day work week. This means I’m not getting up quite as early (6am instead of 4:45), which means I’m not going to bed quite as early, which means I have a little more flexibility in my evenings. SSH and I are both feeling like we could eat better, and the more cooking I do, the less I have to eat frozen gluten free meals for lunch (which are OK, but there are only about 4 options that I consider edible, and that gets old fast). If I limit our eating out, and cook more in the crock pot, I’ll have more leftovers for that, and we’ll both be eating much healthier.

Blog once per week.

Easier said than done. I miss writing about things, and I can access my wordpress login to this blog from work, so hopefully I’ll remember to keep things updated. If I keep up with my other goals, this one should be easy, since I’ll have something to talk about beyond work and sleep.

Walk at least 1 mile, three times per week.

After a pain flare, my schedule got the better of me again, and I quit walking (and biking). I’m still tracking the miles to Rivendell, and I’m ALMOST to Crickhollow. I will be trying to walk MORE than my minimum, but 3 miles a week is my minimum goal. It’s the best time of year for walking in Texas, since I don’t have to change clothes to walk right now. Hopefully I can set up a proper walking habit. This means changing my evening schedule slightly, since I’ve been showering as soon as I get home from work, and spending the evening in PJs, but I think now that I can stay up until 10, I can make it work.

Spend at least one night per week reading.

I realized that I think I only finished two books in 2012, and that makes me pretty sad. Especially given that I used to work at a frigging bookstore, so I have no shortage of books. So I’ve set a goal to FINISH at least book a month in 2013. You can find me on GoodReads if that’s your thing. I’ll be posting there as I finish books. I’m not going to make myself read all fiction though, since I’m apparently still too easily wrapped up in things. The last book I finished was very good, but I spent a whole weekend being sad after finishing it, which isn’t super fun. Re-reading counts too, but I’m going to limit my re-reads. I do want to get through Harry Potter again, once I finish Lord of the Rings.

Spend at least one evening per week doing a craft or hobby.

This will probably be spinning, since I have my new spinning wheel to learn! It might also be knitting or sewing, or writing letters. Or maybe doing canning projects. I feel like since I started my new job, all my hobbies except “putter around on the internet” have been largely abandoned. Hence the goal of doing them one night a week! This is allowed to be done while watching television, though we’re in the Long, Dark, Miserably Baseball-less Winter, so there’s not a lot I want to watch during the week.

Meditate at least 10 minutes, two days a week.

This can include seated meditation, walking meditation, mantra meditation, or stretching/yoga type meditation, just so that I don’t get bored. I’m allowed to combine this with the walking 3 times a week goal, but I have to actually concentrate on using the walk as a meditation, not just say “well I walked, that counts for two things.”

Unfuck my house at least once a week

Those not familiar with Unfuck Your Habitat may want to check out their tumblr, about page, tips, and welcome packet. It’s suited me better than FlyLady, which was becoming a constant source of anxiety instead of helping me keep my house clean. Working 12 hour days and needing at least 8 hours sleep apparently isn’t the ideal situation to feel like you have to spend at least an hour cleaning your house every day. I like the 20/10 system, and it’s helped me keep on top of the housework in a short time on weekends. Except for laundry, which still takes several hours, but there’s not much I can do about that. Anyway, I want to continue to keep on top of that, so this is really a “continuing” goal instead of a new one.

I am hoping I’m not biting off more than I can chew, but I think it’ll be a good experiment to do for a month. If any of these proves to be obnoxious, I will not hesitate to axe them from the list. Most of this list is about having more fun and being more well rounded, and if I’m miserably sitting in my living room spinning because it’s “official spinning day” and I’m hating every minute of it, that kind of defeats the point. So maybe these are more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules (thank you, Capt. Barbossa).

Feel free to help keep me accountable for this. I’m tired of doing nothing but work, putter on the computer, and sleep! Here’s to January!

What Do I Read Next?

One of the most frequent questions I get as a bookseller is a variation on “What should I read next?”

(It’s not the top question. That’s “Do you have a book?” followed by “Where’s the bathroom?”)

It’s actually a fun part of bookselling, helping someone who knows they love a certain book or kind of book find something new and exciting to read.

Except there are a lot of books/genres I don’t know anything about.

Unfortunately I can’t log into something like Shelfari from work (not allowed to log into anything from any work computer). I can go to Google and hope the power of the internet (and/or Amazon’s suggested other books) will bail me out, but there are a few really fantastic websites that can help more quickly. And quick is important – nobody wants to stand around while I putter on the internet trying to figure out what kind of book they want.

These are my go-to websites (depending on the query):

  • What Should I Read Next? – Yes, this actually exists as a website. Enter a title or author and get a list of suggestions of other authors and titles that you might check out. This is my major lookup, especially if someone has read EVERTHING by a certain author or authors.
  • Fantastic Fiction – a great listing of author biographies, lists of titles by each author, and author suggestions. While it’s no guarantee that your favorite author will suggest books that you’ll like, it’s a neat reference and they tend to stay within genres.
  • Wikipedia – If all you need is a list of a series in order, Wiki is likely your quickest lookup. Many series aren’t written book 1 through book 10, and often Wikipedia will have a list both in chronological publishing order and in “plot” order.
  • GoodReads – books by title, author, ISBN, and genre and often with reviews. While the majority of social options aren’t available on GoodReads without signing in to an account, you can read the reviews there without it, and they list new releases by genre.

So the next time you finish a really great book and want to read something similarly awesome, these resources may be able to bail you out – especially if you’re online shopping (or on your phone at the bookstore).

Or, you know, ask a bookseller. That’s what we’re for! (But we do appreciate if you have more than just “I saw a book over there, it had a blue cover, do you still have it?”)

Book Update

Since my last book update, I have finished Diet for a Dead Planet (Christopher D Cook) and The Consumer’s Guide for Effective Environmental Choices (The Union of Concerned Scientists), gotten halfway through Redwall, and read The Last Little Cat.

I highly recommend Diet for a Dead Planet to anyone who wants to read about the human costs to the current agricultural system – not so much as a condemnation (which it is) but also as a history of how the system actually developed, both industrially and politically. It’s written in such a way as to be easy to read in small chunks, and it was my bedtime reading book for awhile. Cook also does a great job of endnoting his work, so anything that seems outrageous can be fact-checked – something I did a few times.

The Consumer’s Guide was pretty dry but good to read, since it actually takes SCIENCE to the idea behind “greening” your everyday decisions. Especially in light of this week being Earth Day (more on that later this week), it’s nice to read something that says “these things actually make a difference, but those things really don’t”. For example, choosing to buy an energy efficient refrigerator is a much more important decision than whether you use plastic or paper grocery bags. They line up their scientific method and have a large section of data and analysis in the back of the book to support their findings as well. (Not surprising, given the authors.) Unfortunately, it’s about 10 years old, so it’s not as up to date as it could be, and a lot of the progress they see as possible hasn’t come about yet.

I have given up on the Dalai Lama’s book for now, mostly because it is a little too thinky for me right now. I’ve put off most of the other books for another time.

Instead, on my reading list, I have:

  • Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Midnight, by James Howe
  • The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
  • The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, by Ree Drummond
  • Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
  • A Garden Book for Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, by the River Oaks Garden Club, and Houston Garden Book, by John Kriegel

Plus, of course, finishing Redwall and whatever other Brian Jacques books I can track down at work. Hopefully this will be a good continuation of both fun reading that I’ll enjoy and reading that will feed my brain (pun intended) as I research and study various things about our food industry and about my local gardening climate.

Also, for what it’s worth, those books at the top of this post are the first books I’ve actually finished since all this started last year. *\o/*

How many bookmarks do YOU need?

Working at a bookstore, I run into a lot of books that I want to read. In fact, my “to read” list has gotten longer, and longer, and longer the more I’ve worked there. We’re allowed to keep a stash shelf in the store of things we intend to either read and return (we can check books out for 30 days) or purchase in one chunk later on.

Needless to say, it’s taken a bit of willpower not to pour my paycheck back into the store, even with the snazzy employee discount I get. Especially since I tend to be in the middle of a bunch of books all at once.

On my list right now:

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora (need to actually finish this) – Scott Lynch
  • Blood Sucking Fiends – Christopher Moore
  • The Spellman Files – Lisa Lutz
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are – John Kabat-Zinn
  • The Universe in a Single Atom – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Diet for a Dead Planet – Christopher D Cook
  • The Diet Myth – Paul Campos
  • The Courage to Start and No Need for Speed – John “The Penguin” Bingham

As some of you might know, though, I’ve had some troubles for the last 6 months (has it really been that long? :/ ), so my attention span is a fickle beast that I’m frequently frustrated with. Which basically boils down to my having trouble actually finishing books, or not being able to read them front to back in any reasonable time.

That’s not so much a problem with the non-fiction books, since I can usually go chapter to chapter with them, and bounce between a few.

But with fiction? I’ve read the beginning of Lies of Locke Lamora at least three times now, because I get into it, get excited, have to put the book down… have a few bad days, and just don’t pick it up again after.

I’ve always been a serious reader who didn’t shy away from tome-sized novels. But now I’m finding that it might be time to focus on short stories for awhile, and get back to the tomes later. (You’ll notice that both the other novels on that list are lighter and more humorous reading. That’s intentional as well.)

Either way though, I’m pretty excited about my current list of things to read. I’ll post updates if any of them become favorites, and hopefully in a month or so have another list of things that are on the bookshelf.

Until then, though, you might consider stock in bookmarks. I tend to use lots of them.