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Monday, December 31, 2018

Year in Review: Books

I take reading seriously. It's been my favorite thing to do from my earliest memories. I was the kid hiding my book underneath my textbook, hiding under the blankets at night with a flashlight; a trip to the library was as good as a vacation. And so before 2018 is history, I wanted to review my 2018 in books. 

I completed 67 books, heavy on the fiction side. In 2018 I learned to define the kinds of books I enjoy. A few common themes: likable characters, books focusing on a specific skill or specialty (The Ensemble), historical fiction from WWII (We Were the Lucky Ones) and early American years (Love and Other Consolation Prizes), books focusing on social justice or issues (Dear MartinEvicted). While I don't read nearly as much YA as I used to, I do still like the occasional highly unrealistic teen love story or dystopian novel.

Although I don't really set reading goals, I do sometimes highlight a general direction for my reading. For instance, in 2017 I focused on reading books written by people of color. In 2019 I want to read a book on the Enneagram as well as a couple of parenting books that have been on the shelf for a while now (I'll be a mom to TWO teenagers in 2019).

March was my best month - I only read 3 books but they were all 5-star books (and I don't give out many 5 star ratings). Here's how I rate books:

  • 5 stars - I think everyone should read it. 
  • 4 stars - I highly recommend and thoroughly enjoyed. 
  • 3 stars - I generally liked it, but maybe wouldn't recommend it to everyone for any number of reasons. 
  • 2 stars - skip it
  • 1 star - why didn't I skip it??
  • No rating means I didn't quit the book and enjoyed it on some level, but it's not something I can recommend.
Over the years, I've gotten better at quitting a book if I'm not hooked. There's no reason to waste time on a bad book when my "want to read" list has 483 books and growing. So here's my year broken down into months.


January (6 books)
This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel - 3 stars
It's Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn't Choose by Melanie Dale - 3 stars
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - 4 stars
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green - 4 stars
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan - 3 stars
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan - 4 stars

February (7 books)
Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker - 4 stars
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - 3 stars
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway - 4 stars
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford - 5 stars (the first 5-star book of the year!)
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis - 4 stars
Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira Lee - 2 stars
I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka - 4 stars (listened to the audiobook of this one with the kids)

March (3 books)
Lilac Girls by Martha Kelly - 5 stars
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - 5 stars
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs - 5 stars

April (5 books)
The Pretty Dish by Jessica Merchant - 3 stars
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones - 4 stars
The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan - 3 stars
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner - 5 stars
Fearless Parenting by Jimmy Myers - 5 stars

May (6 books)
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - 5 stars
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods - 5 stars
Still Me by Jojo Moyes - 5 stars
I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson - 4 stars
Force of Nature by Aaron Falk - 4 stars
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - 5 stars

June (8 books)
The Assistants by Camille Perri - 4 stars
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy - 4 stars
Educated by Tara Westover - 5 stars 
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate - 5 stars
That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam - 3 stars
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza - 5 stars
If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey - 4 stars
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel - 4 stars

July (6 books)
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne - 4 stars
No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert - 5 stars
The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir - 4 stars
Save the Date by Morgan Matson - 4 stars
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - 3 stars
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin - 3 stars

August (7 books)
The Selection by Keira Cass - 4 stars
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton - 5 stars
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos - 5 stars
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser - 5 stars
How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson - 5 stars
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie - 4 stars
Dear Martin by Nic Stone - 5 stars

September (4 books)
The Elite by Kiera Cass - 3 stars
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter - 5 stars
Limelight by Amy Poeppel - 4 stars
The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand - 4 stars

October (6 books)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond - 5 stars
The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin - 5 stars
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger - 3 stars
Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson - 4 stars
Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry - 5 stars
Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand - 3 stars

November (4 books)
Sadie by Courtney Summers - no rating
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed - 4 stars
How to Walk Away  by Katherine Center - 5 stars
Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West - 3 stars

December (5 books)
This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips - no rating
Scythe by Neal Shusterman - 3 stars
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan - 4 stars
Remember God by Annie Downs - 4 stars
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter - no rating

It's hard to choose a favorite. Because I read so many books (and have crazy chemo brain), I can often read a book and as soon as I close the last page, it's out of my head. So when a book makes an impression and I can remember it 6 months later, it's a big deal. As I looked back over the list, the books I remember from 2018 are the ones rated 5 stars which means I rated them correctly.

Here's to another year of good books!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Five on Friday (December 21, 2018)

Christmas music is playing, my Frasier fir candles are lit - the generic Aldi version that took the internet by storm and the Anthropologie version (currently 30% off with 85 hours of burn time) - and I have an extra cup of coffee in hand. Brian took the kids Christmas shopping this morning so I'm sitting in an empty house with only the glow of the tree lights. It is incredibly gray and gloomy outside. Exams, bus runs, and basketball/soccer practice ended yesterday. I made a trip to the library and brought home 22 books to get us through the weekend. There are Christmas cookies in the pantry and plenty of coffee in the cabinet. We have a couple of quiet days planned before family arrives Wednesday and our family holiday begins.

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1. A little trip down memory lane

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2. Not a single student on his high school run on the last day before the break.

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3. As a freshman (and taking all honors courses), Camden felt the pressure of cumulative exams and the knowledge that these grades go on his permanent record. He's never had to do much studying, but he put in some hard hours in preparation for this week. And we're all a little happier now that exams are over and his stress level has gone back to normal levels.

4. I received the Ember mug as a Christmas present earlier this month and I cannot even tell you how much I love it. And remember my stroop wafel recommendation last week? I discovered that the legitimate way to eat one is after it's been warmed up by the steam from your cup of coffee. Genius!

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5. I see a chiropractor generally twice a month so it was business as usual to have an appointment this week. What wasn't standard was the pain and discomfort I've been feeling in my back and hip. I breathed a literal sigh of relief as the doctor acknowledged that my hip was very much out of whack. That feeling of relief reminded me of two Decembers ago when Dr. C informed me that the pain was related to cancer growth. Do you know I spent months convincing myself that pain was nothing? I can't be the only one who doesn't trust their intuition, who keeps a negative running commentary in their head - your pain isn't real, anyone else could handle this better than you, why don't you do more for church/home/family, when are you going to step up, lose the weight, be a better mom, etc. It seems like just a little thing - this hip issue - but it was enough to make me rethink how I talk to myself, doubt myself, bully myself and I'm going to do better. 

This weekend's plans involve Home Alone (first time for the kids), date night tomorrow for the adults, Christmas service Sunday and as much lounging as we can fit into 3 days. We'll catch up on adulting tasks after we've relaxed ourselves into oblivion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

February 2018

Now that my personal computer is back up and running, I finally uploaded pictures from the big girl camera to edit and post - all the way back to February 8 of 2018. Crazy! It was so good to spend time looking at pictures, and I was reminded all over again of why I love my camera and photography. I'm planning to post a year's worth of photos over the next 2 weeks (sadly, there aren't many) beginning with February.

I bought Rory the best book to commemorate Black History Month. The book highlights influential women, both historical and present day. Rory's favorite chapters featured Rosa Parks and Dominique Dawes.

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First time using a flat iron (pretty sure she hasn't used it since).
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Five on Friday (December 14, 2018)

1. The ice Sunday morning was beautiful although I'm still waiting for the weather to result in a snow day.

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2. I'm super behind on buying gifts, planning for the week of Christmas with guests, baking, etc. Know what I'm not behind on? Taking advantage of sales for myself.

3. This week a certain teenager in our house lived up to the hype of how challenging teenagers can be. Fingers (and toes and everything else) crossed this is a short phase because it is not fun. Where's my sweet kid?



4. It's Homecoming Week at school so Rory dressed up every day although this one was my favorite - teal eyeshadow, tie-dye, crimped hair, and overalls.

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5. If you have a Trader Joe's or an Aldi's grocery store nearby, make sure to pick up Stroop Wafels. They are SO delicious, and I've bought more than a few packages both to snack on and to include with gifts.

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A quick update on me: I saw my oncologist today for scan and bloodwork results - all stable. My tumor markers are increasing but very, very s.l.o.w.l.y. and we'll take it. The truth is that until about 6 weeks ago, I still felt crummy most of the time. I began to feel better almost overnight in mid-October and although I'm still taking a lot of medication for side effects leftover from chemo and some cancer-related symptoms. I have to force myself not to feel like it's a personal failure somehow to not be at 100%, but after nearly 8 years of cancer and half of that in treatment, my oncologist tells me this is my 100%. My port is giving us fits so I'm having it checked out, but not until after the holidays. December 2018 is very different from December 2017 in all the best ways.

Weekend plans include the Homecoming basketball game tonight followed by a Christmas open house at a friend's. Tomorrow is another Christmas party and I'm hoping to knock out some holiday baking. By this time next week, all 4 of the Lewis clan will be on Christmas break. Happy weekend, friends.



Friday, December 07, 2018

Five on Friday (Dec. 7, 2018)

The first week of December is always one of the busiest of the year for me at work. And while the rest of the month is still busy on every other front, the workload goes downhill from here. Can you believe this was my view Wednesday morning? We're actually supposed to have a little more of this over the weekend and as long as I can stay in, I'm all for it. 

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1. Basketball season has not been successful in the traditional sense - we've only won one game. BUT Camden continues to personally improve, he's the team captain, and it's always good to see your kid have fun. He accomplished a personal goal during Tuesday's game - sinking a 3-pointer. 

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2. Camden had a Spanish project this week that required making homemade empanadas (on his own) for his class. He did a fantastic job and now there's no excuse for not cooking dinner for the family!

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3. It only took 7 months, but my computer is back up and running. I'm looking forward to spending time with photos again. Unfortunately, our office/bonus room has a new treadmill and new internet wiring to figure out first. At this point, we're holding out for Christmas break to tackle that job.

4. We had our very own Christmas miracle this week - Brian was finally able to fix Alexa. She has been the bane of his existence since we were gifted her last Christmas. Brian has spent hours and hours working on her throughout 2018. Fingers crossed, but I think he finally figured out the issue and she's been working all week.

5. If you need a good cry and warm fuzzies, watch the George H. W. Busher funeral coverage. The tributes were so moving, and I bawled my way through the entire thing. 

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And, finally, Happy Birthday to Brian! He played hookie from work to accompany me to a scan and oncology appointment. Unfortunately, the scan machine broke and we had to reschedule both appointments for next week. We did not, however, have to reschedule our coffee, donuts, and lunch date.

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Up this weekend is another basketball game for Camden, a little one-on-one time with Rory, Christmas party with my Bible study girls Saturday night, and Rory has a girl's outing after church Sunday. Maybe I can sneak in some baking time as well. Happy Friday, friends.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Closing the Door on November

Shockingly, it's already the final day of November, and the holiday season is in full swing. We're pressing pause on the busyness tonight to put up the Christmas tree, wrap a few presents, make our annual batch of chex mix and watch a cheesy Christmas movie (special occasion alert because holiday movies are not really my thing). Tomorrow kicks off 3 straight weekends chock full of school and church holiday events. I'm keeping my eyes firmly set on December 17 - my last day of work for the year - in front of me.

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A quick recap of the last 2-3 weeks:

A surprise birthday celebration (#43 for me) went awry when my mom took a bad fall and tore her rotator cuff (she's in surgery as I write this). A girl's night out turned into a family event after mom's injury and Liz's knee surgery. Dinner at Grilled Cheeserie and The Little Mermaid at Nashville Children's Theater made for a sweet time together.

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Work took me to Orlando the week before Thanksgiving. The resort was incredible and the weather was beautiful. Working the entire time felt like such a waste although our environment certainly made the 3 days worth of meetings a lot more tolerable!

The view from my own personal balcony was amazing.
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Becky and the boys visited for a short 2 days before Thanksgiving and then we left them behind and traveled to east Tennessee to spend the holiday with Brian's family. His grandmother was in the hospital and declining rapidly so it was a bittersweet trip. We drove to Virginia the day after Thanksgiving for a quick 90th birthday meal with Brian's Granny June. On my side of the family, Camden's king of the cousins. But when we're with Brian's family, the girls rule. There was much giggling and several sing-alongs. I did my first Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping in several years and vowed never to do it again. 

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Parenting a middle schooler and high schooler continues to keep us so busy. If we're not at basketball games/practice or youth events, we're driving to and from said events. Camden is having fun as the veteran of the JV team, and it's certainly more fun to watch your kid play than to watch him sit the bench (I'm certain that cycle will begin all over again if he plays Varsity next year).

Pastoring a church (and being the pastor's wife and family) continues to stretch us all. Still learning our place, learning where the best yes's are and how to prioritize our time. After nearly 6 months in his new role, Brian would choose it all over again, and we continue to be amazed at how the Lord worked out this whole situation.

Which bring us to today: my mom is in surgery, Liz is recovering from her own surgery, work is hectic, kids are changing and maturing, loved ones are living through incredible challenges. And the only thing to do is keep putting one step in front of the other, keep being intentional in the joy and gratitude and contentment department. Focus on the good, learn from the hard. Say I love you and I forgive you. Look at each new day as the clean slate that it is.

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Have a great weekend, friends.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Five on Friday (November 9, 2018)

1. In the space of 4 days, Rsleepwalked twice. The first night she came down to our bedroom and knocked on the door to let us know it was time to go to school (it wasn't even 10:00 p.m.). The second night she actually got up, showered, and began getting ready for school only to realize that it was 10:30ish and everyone was still in bed for a reason. Should I be concerned?

2. Cross country is finally over and Rory ended the season running in the district tournament with the Varsity team. She held her own and finished in 9th place.  Pre-season soccer conditioning overlapped for a couple of weeks but she's currently free from extra-curriculars.

3. Basketball, however, is in full force. Last Friday was the unofficial tip-off, but tonight is the first game of the season. It's so strange to see Camden on the court as the veteran 9th grader. Not only is he the tallest on the team, but there are only a couple of other players with any previous experience (two of which are currently on academic probation). He is such a sentimental kid and chose #11 for his jersey - his Aunt Liz's old number.

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4. We bought a new (to us) Nissan Rogue last week and I love it! For now, we're holding on to both the very old and worn out mini-van along with the ready-to-die Yaris. Brian is driving both old vehicles in an effort to extend their usefulness. One funny story: the day after we bought the Rogue Camden prayed, "Thank you for the blessing of a new vehicle. Help us to use the car to it's full capability." ;)

5. After using the same mattress for the last 18 years, we purchased a memory foam mattress from Amazon this week. (Remember when buying anything as important as a mattress involved actual stores?) Several family members have the same mattress and love it, so Brian and I are both hoping it improves our sleep habits and our sore backs.

Our weekend plans include Camden's first basketball game, a family trip to the Nashville Children's Theater (a girl's trip with mom, Rory, Addison, and Liz) tomorrow night. And I have every intention of finishing up my current read before Monday. Happy Friday, friends!

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Thursday, November 08, 2018

October Recap

August - October are the craziest months of the year. Until the holidays roll around in November and December, that is. So basically, the second half of every year is just busyness on top of busyness. I'm in the process of having my computer fixed (it's been down since April) and, despite the busyness, I'm feeling the desire to jump back into my camera and photographing our life. It's a hobby that I have let go over the past years as I went back into the workforce, endured 18 months of chemo, and began parenting teenagers. Maybe I'm ready to balance it all?

We made a quick family visit to St. Louis during fall break. We met up with Becky and the boys, Liz and Addison along with many St. Louis cousins that we haven't seen in years. Unfortunately, the trip was a mere 48 hours long and there wasn't nearly enough time to catch up. But it was a fun 48 hours and it was good to touch base with so many family members.

Salt and Smoke was amazing.
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Blueprint coffee was delicious.
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I couldn't possibly count the number of times I've been to the St. Louis zoo, both as a child when we would meet cousins and now as an adult when we still meet family. It was fun to see cousins all grown up with their own babies.

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Supper was the biggest nutella rootbeer float you've ever seen.

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Because of very cold, rainy day, we had to cancel our plans for the City Museum (the kids were SO disappointed) and went instead to the St. Louis Science Museum (another place I have visited as a child so many times).

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And, of course, we went to Ted Drewes even in the cold. You can't go to St. Louis and not have frozen custard from Ted Drewes. No surprise - there was a line even in the rain!

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Moving on from fall break, the kids had 3 major events in October: costume party with the church youth group, a talent show at school (Camden played the guitar), and The Grounded Conference at TDF (apologetics youth conference at a local church). Rory dressed up as a mime (?) and Camden dressed up as our worship pastor.
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And that's a wrap for October! Here's to better memory keeping in November.