Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review

In reading blogs and talking to friends and family, I'm finding that there's a lot of reflection going on as 2009 comes to a close. That's not unusual, but I haven't really thought much about 2009 and its events and accomplishments. Instead, I've been looking forward to 2010 and setting some very specific goals for realizing my dreams. I don't want to let 2009 go by without taking some time to reflect on what I've accomplished and experienced, though, so I decided to continue the tradition of completing my annual Year-End Meme. (I took the reflection a little further and read through my 2007 and 2008 year-end posts, too.)

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

I traveled to Arizona, a first which provided several other firsts: I saw my first cactus; visited the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Painted Desert and the Petrified forest, as well as several other interesting places; and I got a tattoo while I was there. I also rode on a motorcycle for the first time, played my first hand of black jack at a casino, saw Niagara Falls and sat in the studio audience of a television show (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I made some significant progress on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list in 2009. As for 2010, I'm not a resolution maker, but I am setting some serious goals for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, several friends and family members had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

More freelance clients (and therefore income), more mindfulness, more time practicing yoga, and more time with my sisters and my girlfriends. I miss my girls' nights!

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

November 26th - The first time I hosted Thanksgiving in my house.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

That's a really good question. I'm not feeling really good about my accomplishments in 2009. I feel like I was so busy all year and it went by so fast, but I don't feel like I have much to show for all that busy-ness.

I suppose that completing a book proposal for a client was a pretty big achievement. I'm going to go with that.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not getting myself into a regular exercise routine again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had an odd rash all over my body that turned out to be a fungal skin infection. Not fun. And don't ask me how I got it because I still have no idea.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A beautiful set of bookends in Arizona and a table and chairs set for my dining room

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I can't think of anyone in particular...

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Same here. (Maybe I'm a bit too self-centered to answer these two questions???)

14. Where did most of your money go?

Into my house, savings account and 401K.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Building my writing and editing business in preparation for full-time freelance.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

I'm Yours by Jason Mraz

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) happier; (b) neither...I've managed somehow to maintain my weight this year, although that's not necessarily a good thing; (c) richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Yoga, practicing mindfulness, traveling, submitting my work, and exercising. I could always write and read more, too.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Watching television (yet again this year, although I did manage to go TV-less at least one night a week); thinking I was too busy to enjoy things I love

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I spent most of the day with my dad watching Bones reruns, visited my Grampy in the hospital, then had a lobster and shrimp dinner with my dad. During the week of Christmas I visited with friends and family, laughing, baking and enjoying their company.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

I fell (more) in love with My Love. :)

22. What was your favorite TV program?


23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I don't hate.

24. What was the best book you read?

Nonfiction - A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

Fiction - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn't do much musical exploration in 2009...

26. What did you want and get?

More focus on my goals and dreams and a clear plan for getting where I want to go.

27. What did you want and not get?

Central air conditioning, a refinished basement, a new roof and a renovated kitchen

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

I can't say I've seen one that absolutely blew me away, but I really liked My Sister's Keeper and I'm looking forward to seeing Sherlock Holmes this week.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33 and I had a nice dinner at Olive Garden with My Love. I also celebrated a little late when I headed out to Arizona to visit my sister. doing mundane tasks.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

The year went by a little too quickly for my taste, so I think the thing that would have made it more satisfying is if I had slowed down to smell the roses a little more or at least worked on being less busy and more productive.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

I upped the trendiness factor this year by getting some new specs. Other than that, I'd say my fashion concept remained the same: casual yet professional.

32. What kept you sane?

Reading, writing and spending time with family and friends. And plenty of laughter.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Simon Baker

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The health care debate

35. Who did you miss?

The same people I miss every year: friends who live out of state; my sister; my mom and the rest of my family in NY; and even girlfriends in the area that I don't get to see nearly enough.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I met a lot of new people in 2009, especially while I was out in Arizona, but I think I would have to go with the literary agent I met at a writing conference. She's become a friend and valuable resource as I pursue my writing dreams.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.

That dreams won't come true if you don't spend time pursuing them.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I can't think of any that apply, honestly.

How do you feel about 2009? Did you do all that you wanted to do? Was it a good year? Are you ready for 2010?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TBR Challenge 2010 - The Do Over

It's time for the TBR (To Be Read) Challenge again. I wasn't very good at reviewing the books I read for the challenge, and I didn't update on my progress much throughout the year, but that's mostly because I was a bit embarrassed by my lack of progress.

I failed to check many books off my TBR List in 2009. Although I did read almost 2 dozen books, the majority of them didn't come from that TBR pile that's been collecting dust. Instead, I was buying books at one of my favorite second-hand bookstores or getting them through

I did manage to read 3 of the 12 books off my main 2009 challenge list and 3 off my alternates list. In addition to my TBR books, I read through a number of books by new or new-to-me authors, did some research for my own writing by reading several best-selling memoirs and essay collections, and learned something new by reading a few business and self-improvement books (one of my favorites was A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink).

Having joined Paperback Swap, my TBR list is growing exponentially. Thankfully, I've been able to share some of the books that I've read but were gathering dust on the shelves in order to make room for new additions. It's hard for me to part with my books, but because bookshelf real estate is extremely valuable in my house, I've had to make some sacrifices. Besides, I love sharing books with friends, so why not share them with strangers who might enjoy them, as well?

Sadly, my TBR List for 2010 looks much like my TBR list for 2009. I'm starting to think that if I haven't read them by now they just might not be catching my interest enough, but I'm going to give it a try again. There is, after all, only so much time in a year--and there are SO many books to read. Even if I keep up my reading pace of 2009 and only read books from my TBR list, I won't make it through all of these titles. I plan to do my best, though.

2010 TBR List

  1. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

  2. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  3. A Hand to Guide Me by Denzel Washington

  4. Writing Your Life by Lou Willett Stanek

  5. Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa

  6. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

  7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

  8. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot (Finished 1/17/10)

  9. Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot

  10. Big Boned by Meg Cabot

  11. American Girls About Town (Finished 2/15/10)

  12. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

  1. The Ha-Ha by David King

  2. Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Holmes

  3. Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach

  4. Trudy's Promise by Marcia Preston

  5. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult (Finished 1/30/10)

  6. The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

  7. The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

  8. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

  9. Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson (Finished 2/21/10)

  10. Lisey's Story by Stephen King

  11. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

  12. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

I'll try to keep you posted on my progress and let you know if any of these are worth recommending. If you want to join the challenge, visit the official challenge site and sign up. Here's to a year of reading!

Have you read any of these books? Any suggestions on where I should start?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sarah's Gift

Sarah collapsed back on the bed, exhausted from all the pushing and panting. Finally, she thought, and closed her eyes. Even the high-pitched, frantic sounds of her baby's cries were a relief.

Before the exhaustion could engulf her, the nurse midwife who had held Sarah's right hand through the delivery brought the tiny baby boy to her, wrapped tightly in a soft blanket. As soon as Sarah took him, pulling him to her like a magnet, he stopped crying and relaxed against her chest. She knew exactly what he was feeling--the calm after the storm, the satisfaction of completing a long, arduous journey.

"He's so beautiful, just like you," Steve said, breaking the spell. Still grasping her left hand, he bent over her to first kiss Sam's forehead and then hers. Sarah smiled at Steve and nodded almost imperceptibly. Beautiful...she had never seen beauty like this.

They were a family now. After all their trying and trying, they were finally a family. No more shots and multi-packs of pregnancy tests waiting to be taken. Here Sam was, wrapped up in her arms like a gift she had been anticipating all her life.

And baby makes three...

This is my response to the prompt, Wrapped, at Creativity Corner, a new series of creativity prompts at Write Out Loud. If you'd like to join in, write your own response to the prompt and then head over to Write Out Loud and leave a link in the Wrapped comments.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Recommended Reading - A Few Favorites of 2009

I've been plowing through books this year. What with my goal to read 50 books for my 101 Things in 1001 Days and my recent membership to*, I have plenty of motivation to read, read, read. I've read 20 books in 2009 and I'm on target to finish my 21st by January 1st. I'm also still listening to audio books during my commute. While I don't count them as official "reads", I've listened to at least 20 audio books, as well.

In light of all this reading, and just in time for the gift-giving rush, I thought I'd share some recommendations for a few of my favorite reads of 2009**.


Still Life with Husband by Lauren Fox

If you are a fan of chick lit but are tired of the same old story, or if you aren't really a fan of chick lit at all, I'd highly recommend this book. It's a story about fidelity and the consequences of our choices that's told in a real, no-holds-barred voice. Funny, honest, heartbreaking and inspiring, with a dose of reality that most chick lit novels seem to avoid, Still Life with Husband was one of my top 5 favorite books this year.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I may be one of the few people who hadn't read this by the time the movie came out this year. And there may not be anyone out there who hasn't read it since (or wants to). But if there is someone out there who, for whatever reason, hasn't picked up this book, they should. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I hear it's different. It would have to be. My biggest concern before reading TTTW was that I wouldn't be able to follow all the time jumping, but Niffenegger does a really good job of making the time periods as clear as possible throughout the book. After just a few pages, I had gotten into the groove and read this one in about three days. It was sappy in places, and at some points I wondered why anyone would choose to marry someone who jumped through time, but in the end I felt the story was powerful and well-written.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I especially enjoy books about other cultures and the nerd in me loves to learn new things even when I'm reading fiction. This novel delivers on both fronts and weaves a moving story at the same time. In it, a young Chinese boy falls in love with a Japanese classmate in Seattle during World War II, which affects the man he becomes in both expected and surprising ways. It's not action-packed, but it's a thoughtful and moving narrative that kept me turning the pages to the very end.

Change of Heart: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm a huge fan of Picoult's writing. So much so that I often read several of her books back-to-back without a break. After a recent stint like that, I've decided that I have to read another author in between her books from now on. I love her stories and how she delivers them, but sometimes they become a little too formulaic. That being said, Change of Heart (the book I read first during the aforementioned stint) was one of my favorite Picoult's to date. You can read a much better review of it at my 101 Things blog.


A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink

I used to think I had managed to establish a pretty good balance between left-brained, analytical-type thinking and right-brained, creative-type problem solving. After reading this book, I had to think again. Pink offers some well-known and not-so-well-known reasons why right-brained thinking is on the rise (or should be) in the business world and then goes one step further to offer up suggestions and activities that can help even the most left-brained thinker exercise her right brain. Whether you are already the creative type or could use some practice putting your right-brain to work, this book is an easy, interesting and useful read.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

If you're looking for humor writing at its best, Sedaris is your man. His essay collections never fail to leave me laughing out loud (which can be embarrassing if you're sitting in Starbucks, FYI). This is his newest essay collection, and while it wasn't his best, it wasn't bad by any means. If you haven't read any of his stuff, I'd recommend starting with Me Talk Pretty One Day or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim to get a feel for his style and voice. These are great audio books, as well. Sedaris reads his own stuff and hearing him tell these stories is even funnier than reading them.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman

After being promoted to a management position late in 2008, and almost immediately having this book recommended, I borrowed a copy from our corporate library and got to work reading. Only it wasn't really work. Expecting a dry, instructional text on how to be a better manager, I was pleasantly surprised by this easy read. The voice was authoritative yet conversational and the examples and case studies the authors used demonstrated effective management techniques--and why typical management strategies don't work.

If you have already read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you thought of them. And if you haven't, I suggest you go out and buy, borrow or swap a few (for yourself or someone else).

* If you join Paperback Swap using the referral link above I'll get an extra book credit for referring you. Whether you use me as a referral or not, my nickname is writingherlife. If you join, buddy me!

** Most of the book links provided here use my Amazon Associate account and I will earn a teeny tiny profit if you order the books using these links.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Get It While It's Green

If you're a regular reader around here, you know I'm working on living a greener life in whatever ways I can. That's why I couldn't wait to enter my friend Erin's third Go Green Giveaway over at The Mother Load. She's giving a way a set of reusable produce bags to go along with those reusable grocery totes I know you're all carrying around with you these days.

If you'd like to get in on the fun and enter to win some great products to help you live a little greener, head over there now.

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