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2018 book recap & 2019 reading challenge

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So this is it, welcome to the new year! Listening to this song by Motion City Soundtrack just after midnight is my annual tradition as I welcome the changing of the calendar. This year I was extra anxious, because I had nearly completed my 2018 book challenge, and everything else that I wanted to read next would fit the 2019 prompts that Dani and I had chosen.

Last year I managed to read 104 books, which is absolutely a record for me. (That many books, and I still managed to miss a few categories in the challenge. Grr.) I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite books as we gear up for the next challenge!

My Own Devices: Unsurprisingly, this was my book of the year. Dessa is one of my favorite musicians, favorite lyricists, and the writing in her first memoir is unsurprisingly lyrical. It examines the science of love, and if it’s possible to use science to fall out of it, and what to do when the person you’re in senseless love with is also part of your rap crew.

Marlena: This book was recommended to me by two friends, and I’m so glad they did. It’s the story of a woman looking back on her murdered best friend when they were growing up in rural Michigan, running amok and hanging out with the proverbial bad crowd. It’s told in alternating timelines – mostly in the past, with some modern day reflections, and I read it in about two days.

Broad Band: Did you know that the internet was built by women, and that women were the original computers? Even though I work in tech, I truly did not – I’d never really thought about the origin of the word “computer,” or how things were built. Claire Evans tells the stories of some of the most important and influential women in tech, and I haven’t stopped talking about this book ever since. (There were three people who got this for me at Christmas.)

Dark Matter: HOOOO BOY. I found this book while looking for books described as similar to Maybe In Another Life, which is my favorite book, and even though it’s a bit more sci-fi than I usually tend toward, it is incredible. It’s also set in Logan Square, where I spend a lot of time, so it was fun to picture the locations the characters would find themselves in. It made me think a lot about the ethics of things like the multiverse and cloning – you know, just casual topics.

Daisy Jones and the Six*: I’m a huge fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid, so when I heard that her next book was based in music journalism history, I was ecstatic. This novel is told as a narration – members of bands Daisy was affiliated with, as well as Daisy herself, tell a love story, a band biography, and paints the 1960’s rock landscape so perfectly you’ll think you were there.

Tell Me Lies: The cover of this book spoke to me, and I checked it out of the library without really even considering what it was about. Turns out it’s about a girl who continually tries to make a relationship with a man who clearly doesn’t care about her. Tina said that this book is for a particular audience, but that that audience would love it, and I agree.

Wintergirls: Clearly, I trend toward enjoying stories about self-destructive women. Laurie Halse Anderson is such a great writer, and the Wintergirls are two girls who bond over their eating disorders until one of them dies, and the other is forced to reckon with her feelings about her friend and her illness. I’d meant to read this for years, and I thought it was really well-written, and certainly didn’t glorify anorexia or bulimia at all.

Sharp Objects: This was actually my first Gillian Flynn book, and I really loved it. The writing feels dark, and the story certainly is – a journalist goes back to her hometown to look for connections in murder and missing girl cases. The protagonist is a cutter, drinks to medicate her depression, and I appreciated the familiarity in her coping mechanisms. I haven’t seen the Showtime series yet, but I aim to binge it soon!

For 2019’s challenge, we had brainstormed all year, noting prompt ideas and reading lists in our shared document. During roommate Christmas at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (oh my gosh, so amazing, it’s a must visit in Chicago) we reviewed everything, cut out categories from last year that we hated (goodbye, Nordic noir!) and determined the 2019 challenge.

Do you do reading challenges? How do you force yourself to make it through books you hate?!

* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review. Thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
January 3, 2019

march recap / april goals

Posted in Living by

How is March already over? I know they say every year goes by faster (thanks, ER) but it really feels like this past year has been the fastest.

  • 10 No Spend Days
  • Read three books I read four!
  • Figure out car registration This was a big deal and a source of a lot of grief for me. I’m relieved that it’s over.
  • Finish getting tax stuff sorted I finally sent everything off to my accountant, but I’m not totally sure I’m all set on this on my end yet
  • Complete web development course
  • Follow up regarding a health insurance issue
  • Clean out closet
  • Give blood
  • Fix my budget
  • Continue meditating twice a week
  • Work out three days a week
  • Update media kit
  • Launch new blog project
  • Blog three times a week Between both of my blogs, this was easy to get done!

Overall, a really successful month I think! Especially after feeling like a few months of not being able to get started and keep my momentum going. Read more…

April 3, 2017

march goals / february recap

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I had set myself up for a pretty busy February, especially for being such a short month. Maybe it was the unseasonable warmth we had, but I felt pretty unstoppable and successfully completed the majority of my goals. Here’s how the month checked out on my end:

  • Work out three times a week I did start working out again, but it was very inconsistent. I started doing DDP Yoga, though, so hopefully having a plan to stick to will help!
  • Blog twice a week Between this blog and a new secret project, I was on track for two posts per week!
  • Join a blogger community Sort of success? I know what I want to join, just didn’t have the time to devote to it this month, so I never pulled the trigger. I was active in several Facebook groups, so I’ll count that as a win here.
  • Pick up a freelance gig
  • Call Chase to lower my credit card interest rate This was laziness. I had no excuse not to do this.
  • Write one guest post/submit an article to the Billfold I did pitch (haaay) but it was turned down. I think I could have framed it a bit differently. I have a few other ideas I’m bouncing around as well to pitch again, and try to get published there before the end of the year. The Billfold has been one of my favorite blogs for a really long time, so this is a long-term goal for me.
  • Read two books I read SmashedHyperbole and a Half, and All the Bright Places. Highly, highly, highly recommend All the Bright Places.
  • Renew car insurance Apparently I’d had this on autopay. Good job, past Desi!
  • Find a therapist I actually found more than one, and made several appointments. My first appointment went really well, so I ended up canceling the rest, which was a nice relief. Therapist shopping can be overwhelming and hard.
  • Sort out a budget that sees my credit cards paid off by June
  • Buy a desk
  • Give blood
  • Passion Planner roadmaps
  • Sort out insurance stuff I did get this taken care of, but a new issue popped up that I’ll need to stay up to date with next month.

All in all, not a bad month! Even outside my goals, I felt like I had a really productive month. I started working on a secret new blog, started strategizing ways to monetize, and made a trip home to see my family. (And ate a lot of pizza.) I’m expecting to keep the momentum going into March, and hope that the change in seasons will help encourage that productivity! Read more…

March 1, 2017

November Recap & December Goals

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November was a little busier than I anticipated – more time spent in the city than I expected, and a lot more family time than I thought with different family members coming in early and staying later than normal during Thanksgiving. I’m writing this from New York now (to continue on the 2016 travel tour) and starting to think about what I need to do this month to (first of all, survive the rest of this year, and also) start 2017 off on the right foot! Read more…

December 1, 2016

Hot Chocolate 5k Chicago

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hot chocolate 15k/5k review

After a long fitness hiatus during my adventures in Nashville, I’ve tried to get back into being more active in the last couple of months. Some of my friends had signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in Chicago, so I used it as an excuse to get back to racing. I had forgotten how much I really enjoy it.

I headed to the expo on Friday to pick up packets for two of my friends and myself, and though I really think they could have found a more effective space to rent for the expo, it was really well organized. I didn’t have to jump between lines with different last name groupings – the same person ran all three of our IDs, and I took our bibs over to pick up our hoodies. The sizing of the hoodies is great, but the quality isn’t the best, and now I’m paranoid that it will shrink after the first wash and I’ll have wished for a size bigger, but you live and you learn. At the race itself, I noticed that a lot of the ones being worn around had stray or loose threads on them, so I don’t expect mine to last too long. The expo seemed mostly to have booths for other RAM Racing events, a pretty large Fleet Feet setup, and a few other small booths, but I was in and out pretty quickly without too much temptation.

On Saturday night, I set out all my gear to make sure I was ready to go, which ended up being a good call since that was when I discovered that I had not brought my shoes in the house. I stuck my bib to my Fitletics belt, charged up the bluetooth headphones, and made a plan to get to the race the next day.


Sunday morning came and I was kind of nervous because I haven’t been working out very much, and I haven’t raced since April 2014. I planned to pace my friend to a PR so I adopted a little fake confidence to believe I could even hit the pace I planned for us. I found the race setup to be a little confusing – none of the information in the packet or on the website said exactly where bag check was, so we had to walk what felt like forever to drop off our bags. We were in wave 2, and it seemed like the arrival time for that was much earlier than it should have been, but maybe it was my sleep-deprived brain being whiny. (My mat time was almost two hours after our corrals closed, though…)

The course itself was really nice – only two slight hills that I noticed, and even though I didn’t feel properly “trained,” I felt great during our walk/run splits and stayed right on the pace I had planned (who knew I could pace?) and the race went by really quickly. Every time we hit a mile marker, I found myself feeling surprised. The aid station had Nuun, water, and chocolate chips (which I really should have skipped, but I partook and spent the next half mile with a side stitch) and I finished in 44:27, which I felt like a really reasonable time!


We finished, made the long, long journey to the “finish line” party to get our finisher’s mugs and snacks, and headed to a much deserved brunch! I will probably do this race again next year, but will register pretty far in advance since $65 seemed pretty high for a 5k.

October 29, 2016