Friday, February 17, 2017

The Harry Potter Books Ranked, 2017


Sorry it's been a little while since I've posted.. between then and now I needed an emergency surgery and have just been recovering. There are a lot of things I'd like to post about, but I'm easing myself back in with something light and fun - a ranking of the Harry Potter books. (Not counting The Cursed Child because I'll never consider that an actual part of the story.)

My friend Liz finally read the entire series as my 2016 reading challenge for her and so we've discussed the books quite a bit over the last few months. She is officially a Harry Potter nerd. Thank God. Well, with that and the plethora of HP-related articles floating around the internet, it was sort of inevitable to talk about which books are our favorites. I don't have kids but I imagine it's a bit like picking your favorite child. It's so hard, you love them all.


For me, it seems like I'm always ranking them in a slightly different order. Some are always in the top 3, but there's not a solid list - so I thought it'd be fun to rank them every year or so to see how my preferences have changed (especially since I tend to read each book at least twice a year).

"But how to rank you?"
And so, without further ado, let the sorting er, ranking begin!

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 


I hate to do this because it automatically feels like the books at the bottom are books I don't like and that's just not true - each and every one of the HP books are at the top of my all-time favorite lists, after only Jane Eyre. 

To be fair, I've read PoA less than I've read any of the other books in the series. I've actually been thinking I need to read this one as soon as I finish my current book (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte). Maybe that will be enough to bring it up a place or two or five in 2018's ranking? 

I do remember really enjoying reading how Harry spent his time in Diagon Alley at the end of summer holidays. And of course, I absolutely love Professor Lupin. And how Harry overcomes the dementors! So beautiful and significant to the whole series. Although... I also remember really hating the end of this book. I know Peter Pettigrew had to escape for the plot to go on, but... ah, I resent the end every. single. time. Had Sirius been a truly free man, he and Harry could have had such a different story! Dammit, Wormtail! DAMMIT, ROWLING!

6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


This is another one I haven't read as often as I have books 1 and 4-7, so it's not completely fair. Of course, I still love CoS, just not as much as some of the others. Something I do love about it is the time we get to spend at the Burrow. The Weasleys are the best literary family, hands down. I will say that I think the first two movies (Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets) are the best in the franchise. 

5. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

  
I like love stories, but I don't like love triangles. I also don't think Hermione and Ron make a good match. Between those two things, Half Blood Prince loses a little bit of its ~shine~ to me. (I also get generally annoyed because it's the one on tv most often and, like..... show the other movies, would ya?)

I do, of course, love the scenes between Harry and Dumbledore. Learning about Voldemort's past, seeing Harry and Dumbledore's relationship up close... love it. (I love the conversations between the two of them at the end of every book, so HBP is a treat.)

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


This story might not be as dense as the others, but it's the first one and it gets me every time. There's nothing better than rereading Harry's first time visiting Diagon Alley. The first is wonderful because we get to experience all the magic again.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 


I know a lot of people think OotP is the "worst" of the Harry Potter books. I disagree.

Harry is definitely annoying in this book. No question about that. And he makes some dumb choices. But the book also includes glimpses into the way our favorite witches and wizards are organizing to resist Voldemort and his influence at the Ministry of Magic (sound real-life familiar, or...?) and that is awesome.

I read a book called How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger and in it Granger observes that, of many of the people he's talked to about the books, introverts prefer PoA and OotP and enjoy the two better than most extroverts do. I tend to lean more introvert, so maybe that also affects my view of the book, who knows?

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


I have read this book so many times that my copy is currently in two pieces, ripped down the spine. I probably should get on it and buy a new one...

This is what the book looked like a year ago when it was still managing to hang on by a single thread... wah
I love damn near everything about this book (don't even talk to me about the movies though... smh). So many of our questions are answered, everything makes sense, the whole story is tied together... I feel like you can't not like it, just for those reasons alone??

The mystery of the horcruxes is also intriguing, as of course is the question of whether or not the Hallows are real (and whether Voldemort knows about them). I like seeing the trio (especially Hermione and Harry) really come into their own, I like the warm, homey feeling we get during the birthday dinner for Harry at the Burrow. There's so much I like. (Though, like everyone else, the deaths are heavy in this one.)

My favorite part of this book is the end, of course. The symbolism, the ending Rowling feared readers would have guessed too early had she explicitly told us it was a Christian story. The best chapter there ever was: The Forest Again. Harry seeing his parents, Sirius, and Lupin - them giving him strength to sacrifice himself so that others may live.

There's not much more you can ask for from a book.

Neville cutting off the snake's head was cool, too.

And finally...

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


This is usually the book I proclaim as my favorite of the series. It is perfection.

Sure, it's hard having to endure Ron and Harry's silent fight. But it's worth it because this book is meaty and magical and I don't know, think of another "m" adjective, would you?

I love that we're given some light fun - the Quidditch World Cup (pre-death-eater-parading-around-helpless-muggles, of course), the dance, the Burrow!!, the feasts, the boys getting caught up by the veela, on and on and on. It's got that same magical feeling we were given by the truckloads in Sorcerer's Stone, but the story is also intensifying. We're starting to see real struggle, character development, and obviously, more in-your-face good vs. evil.

Of course, the ending of this one is hard. I think I cry more at the end of this than any of the others, maybe. The moment that comes to mind is when Harry is in the hospital wing after he's returned with the cup and Cedric's body, and Mrs. Weasley (a hero, for real) tells him Cedric's death wasn't his fault. Harry then responds with something like, "I told him to take the cup with me," his eyes filling with tears. (And maybe mine too as I recall this...) And then she hugs him and, not for the first time in the series, he feels glad for it. It's so emotional. GoF, while the graveyard scene is terrifying and horribly sad, is a heck of a book. I love it because it's got fun and danger, it's really the pivotal moment in the series, it's dark but balanced with enough light. It never, ever gets old.

I think it'll still probably be my #1 next year, but I suppose only time will tell.

What do ya'll think?

Friday, January 20, 2017

friendcation


I've been pretty quiet over the last week or two because... my friend Dana came to visit!!! We've been friends for about 11 years now - that picture up there is from Dana's Sweet 16 (I think? Dana?), we're the two sans glasses. We hated each other when we first met, then we became inseparable so much so that we were voted "Best Friends!" for our senior year superlatives, and then we had a little, um... break? for a hot minute in our college years and THEN we went back to being our old selves. But we hadn't seen each other in two years because I moved to North Carolina. (The worst part of getting sick and having to move here is that I honestly never see my friends, and I haven't made an attempt to make any new ones here, so... wah.)

We've been talking about a visit for a while, and the other day it quickly came together! She sent me a message saying something along the lines of, "Uh, how long do you want me in your house? Like is 10 days too much?" And I sent back an obvious and immediate NO! NOT TOO MUCH! And it was all set. She's a big doof and told me to pick her up at the wrong airport, but she realized it with enough time that I didn't drive out of my way, after all! I did have a good laugh about it, though. 

first time seeing each other in YEARS!!!!!
The first thing she said to me when we met at the airport and hugged was, "You're so skinny!!" which is objectively false BUT sealed her in my heart forever, because I have been working on my weight. She also told me my shoes were awesome, so she's a keeper of a friend if I've ever seen one. 

When we had talked online she told me that she hoped we'd just "be doing a lot of hanging out, doing absolutely nothing!" And between the weather (drizzly) and the fact that I'm still recovering from surgery, I definitely delivered on that request. We mostly just sat on the couch and watched movies (Ghostbusters forever!). 


I did manage to take her to see some of the scenes, though! We went through Pisgah Forest, and that's always a treat. Here are some pictures I'd like to keep on this blog - I love looking back at posts months/years later and remembering such fun things! 




Dana said she absolutely needs to come in the summer when the weather is nice enough to fully enjoy all the waterfalls here and I quite agree. I make fun of the south a lot, but the area I live in really is like a natural playground. So many mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. 

Another highlight was a trip to the movies to see Hidden Figures; it was phenomenal. If money were no thing I'd go see it 10 more times. (Funny sidenote: we happened to go on a Tuesday, which is my beloved "discount day" when the tickets are lowered to $6! Because of that and the time we chose - 1:25 in the afternoon - it was packed with older people. It was kind of sweet though, seeing all those old couples and groups of girlfriends having a day out. But it was crazy because we were literally the youngest people there!) 

In a bit of role-reversal, *I* made *her* take a selfie of us this time because I was having my annual good hair day lmao

We went out for Mexican food, we rented about 5,000,000 movies over the course of ten days, we went to Applebees and lamented the menu changes, and I made her come to mass with me one day because she's an art person and the church I go to is incredibly beautiful, so I thought she'd appreciate it. It was a very chill, laid-back visit. She left yesterday and I'm already sitting here making a list of all the fun things we can do when she comes back in the summer!


There's nothing like good friends. :) 

Charlotte 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

a mini-miracle

unrelated blurry selfie bc it's GAME DAY
Fair warning, this post is about endometriosis and talks about organs and medical stuff so if that's not your jam, tomorrow will hold a lighter, fun post - see you then. :)

I mentioned the other day that surgery revealed something a bit amazing. 

I talked to the doctor who operated on me when I woke up, but that conversation is a little blurry to me. I know I asked him about the possibility of kids in the future and he gave an enthusiastic "yes." It was a huge relief to hear. For a long time, my endometriosis was mostly on my non-reproductive organs. Weird, I know. It was problematic because it was on my intestines, but my original doctor wasn't worried (in 2015) about fertility much because my ovaries weren't covered at all. Then a couple of months ago one of the doctors said it was clear to him that things had progressed and that my ovaries were now "stuck up" with everything else. The theory was that everything - uterus, intestines, vagina, ovaries, rectum, ureters were sort of fused together and stuck to my peritoneum (I think), which is the lining of the abdominal cavity. 

Suddenly, I was really worried about any possibility of children. My surgeon happens to be a reproductive specialist and reassured me that in he'd look at certain things to get a better idea during surgery (but as always, there's no way of knowing until you're actively trying to conceive) and that we'd come up with plans if we needed to, plans that stayed within my comfort zone (aka Catholic teaching), etc... but I still worried often. 

When he told me post-op that I should be able to have kids I was, of course, happy. But the real amazement came four or five days later when I had a visit with my primary doctor who read the surgery notes and described the whole thing to me. Not only were the organs sort of fused together, but the endo growth was everywhere. Everywhere. The entire lining, within the intestines, just... everywhere. And the real weird part, the part that my primary kinda commented on with joy himself, since he knew how I felt about fertility? The only things that were spared from the growth were the parts of the fallopian tubes and the parts of the ovaries that produce eggs/"catch" eggs, etc. The only parts spared. They're such tiny areas, it's crazy that the endometriosis affected everything except the ends of the tubes and the ovaries. A lot of women who suffer infertility due to endo do so because it's covering those areas. Surgery can often fix that, but it's even better because I won't have scar tissue right where eggs go. 

I don't know where I'm going with this post so much as I know I felt I should write about this because it is just wild to me. It's like the endo went out of its way to not grow on these super important areas. 

Over the last couple of weeks and months I know a lot of folks have been praying for me (thank you!!), and I know one of those hopes and prayers was that endometriosis wouldn't affect my ability to have kids (because my friends all know how obnoxious I am about babies :). This is one of those things - I know it's not technically a "miracle," but it feels a little miraculous to me, you know? Too good not to write down. 

Anyway, happy Sunday! And let's go G-Men!

xo Charlotte    

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Reading Goals


You'll also see these goals listed later on Filthy Casket, the book review blog run by me and Liz. 

A few days ago I posted that behemoth of a post outlining my main goals for 2017. Today I want to focus specifically on my reading-related goals. There is nothing more exciting than coming up with books to read for a new year! I've broken this post up into two sections: broader reading goals I'd like to complete throughout the year and specific books I want to read in 2017. I read more books in 2016 than I've ever read in a year before, and while I fell just short of my goal of 60, I'm still pretty happy with my reading. Book Queen 2016.

First goal: Review the books you read, Charlotte!! Maybe not every one, but last year I only reviewed nine. NINE!!! That's shameful!!!!!!!! Liz and I are planning to set a minimum of reviewing one each per month, but I'd like to try and do more than that. We shall see.

#2, read 60 books. I came so close last year, I see no reason why I can't achieve the damn thing this year.

Thirdly, I'd like to read some more nonfiction. Biographies, social/political, etc. I love fiction, but I also enjoy reading nonfiction.. when I motivate myself to actually pick it up. It takes me so much longer, I'm always a little reluctant. But maybe if I read some light fiction alongside it??

For the love of all that is holy, my fourth goal: FINISH PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I kept putting this off last year, and then like I said, when the depression hit I intentionally picked books that I thought would help get me through, and Pride and Prejudice wasn't one of them. 2017 will be the year, dang it.

Cinco! And another repeat from last year: Read The Divine Comedy. I really wanted to read this during the Year of Mercy, but I couldn't find it!! My library never had it. Toward the end of the year I finally just purchased it, so all is now well.

Six: Finish the books I started toward the end. Sooo, those books I keep mentioning for depression? Catholic books, obviously. I've started Intro to the Devout Life, Orthodoxy, and Signs of Life... problem is that reading three books at once means I finished parts of each of them instead of finishing any completely. :)

Finally, I want to try and read the Bible. We'll see if I manage to get through the whole thing.

And on to part two, specific books I'd like to read! One year I made a whole reading schedule with 2-3 books per month and then I... didn't stick to it at all. Now that I know myself enough to know I'm gonna throw random choices I find at the library or at Barnes and Noble in whenever my heart desires, or that I'm going to love a book by an author and decide to read every book s/he has ever written, I know not to make a full schedule for myself. But I would like to make a rough list of 12-20 books I'd like to read, and ideas for when I'd like to read them (knowing I'll likely be flexible in reality).

January

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Okay so for January I picked three... because I've got all of these books out from the library and my time is starting to run low! I started the Ender stories in December and am addicted. And The Handmaid's Tale! Ugh, it was one of the books I had to read as part of Liz's challenge for me and I totally failed. Ya'll I can't even tell you the number of times I went to both closest branches of my library only to find that the book was checked out!! It was SO frustrating. And when I finally did check it out, I didn't finish it. Le sigh.

February

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (borrowed this from someone a while ago and have yet to pick it up!)

March

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery
Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte (I am dying to read this again, and tbh I'll probably do so sooner than March...)

April

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

May 

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
Star Wars: Dark Force Rising (^book 2)
Star Wars: The Last Command (^book 3)
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (asked for a book rec, got a book rec - throwing it in May because I expect it'll be good for my birthday and because I think the Star Wars books will fly by.)

June

The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist by Dorothy Day

July 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

August 

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Dana suggested this to me and it sounds so good!)

September

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women

October 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Liz sent me this book as part of the autumn/Halloween book box we sent each other, telling me she gets a sort of magical fall feeling from it, but naturally I did not manage it to read it last fall. This October it is!)

November

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

December

The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn

Should make for another excellent year of reading!

Charlotte

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

the books i read in 2016


The annual list!! My goal was 60 and I managed to read 56. Not bad, not bad. Here they are:

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
2. Meet the New You by Elisa Pulliam
3. What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7?
4. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
5. How to Build a Universe: From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe by Ben Gilliland
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
7. 1984 by George Orwell
8. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
10. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (x2)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (x3)
12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
13. Son by Lois Lowry
14. Messenger by Lois Lowry
15. How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger
16. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
17. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
18. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
19. Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
20. Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown
21. The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy
22. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
23. The Book of Esther by Emily Barton
24. Space Junk: The Danger's of Polluting Earth's Orbit by Karen Romano Young
25. Saints: Who They Are and How They Help You by Elizabeth Hallam
26. Broth and Stock
27. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (#1 favorite this year!)
28. The Fellowship of the Ring
29. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
30. The Two Towers
31. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
32. Quidditch Through the Ages
33. The Cursed Child
34. The Return of the King
35. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
36. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
37. Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters
38. Percy Jackson: The Titan's Curse
39. Percy Jackson: Battle of the Labyrinth
40. Percy Jackson: The Last Olympian
41. Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux by Patrick Ahern
42. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (x2)
43. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
44. My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell
45. The Magician's Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia Book 1) by C.S. Lewis
46. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Narnia 2)
47. The Horse and His Boy (Narnia 3)
48. Prince Caspian (Narnia 4)
49. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Narnia 5)
50. The Silver Chair (Narnia 6)
51. The Last Battle (Narnia 7)
52. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
53. The War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
54. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
55. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
56. Letters to Santa by The Elves

Not a bad year. Italics were my favorites (not including rereads like Harry Potter or LotR). Links to the few reviews I managed over the year.

Charlotte

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the new year

I've achieved the silliest/dumbest pic yet!
I've come to love these kinds of posts where I get to reflect a bit on what I've achieved in the last few months (and what I could have done differently) and make goals for the future. I'm not sure why I like these posts so much now... maybe it's part of the "older and wiser" thing? Entering adulthood with a bit more grace than years past? Perhaps, perhaps. Either way, I sort of relish these marked dates where we all get the opportunity to do a little reflecting and a little planning. 

Even though I'm, you know, three days late. Ahem. 

So, 2016. This year was rough to say the least. I think most of us agree on that, but for me it was personally difficult, too. And yet I almost feel good about it? As though I've been through enough hell to have actually learned things? So that's good. For me 2016 was defined by sickness. I have to laugh at my own naivety in last year's post, when I thought all was well since I had been "feeling a little bit better." As they say down here, "Bless your heart," last year's Charlotte!

The first half of the year was brutal. I was in the hospital all the time. I had surgeries and procedures. Finally we found out that my liver is in fact damaged, but... they found no cause. Luckily the damage isn't severe and in these last few months the pain has decreased somewhat (knock on wood!!!) and my labs have been coming back mostly normal, so let me tentatively say that the liver issues will be at least somewhat less difficult to deal with from here on out. It seems as though some of that upper quadrant pain is something I'm just going to have to live with since we can't find a cause, but as long as I'm not having severe flare-ups, I can mostly manage. This year has made me tougher. I had a liver biopsy and felt the whole thing since I don't numb easily, so I kinda feel like a real bad ass.

As the liver problem lessened, my endometriosis made an appearance. It didn't want to feel left out, I suppose. After all, the upper abdomen can't have all the attention. The low dose birth control I was on stopped doing its job, pain returning full-force. 

You may have noticed I stopped posting entirely some time around late August. I'll tell the story of why now, and try to keep it short. (Brevity is not my forte, though. ;)

When I felt the endo coming back I talked to my primary right away. Endometriosis and I go back far enough that I knew I wouldn't want to put off treatment. He sent me to an obgyn here and off I went. Well... shit hit the fan. For whatever reason (capitalism and the patriarchy, probably), endometriosis is relatively under-researched. Most doctors don't seem to know a ton about it, and in all honesty, the current options for treating it aren't terrific. Turns out the doctor I saw must be one of the doctors who isn't extremely familiar with endo. She told me I'd need an open surgery and a bowel resection and, and, and... you get it, but suggested that in order to avoid that surgery I ought to go on depo provera. 

Ya'll. The horror. The horror!

I received the first shot of depo and about ten days later I started feeling my depression coming back. It felt heavier than it has in months. I was pretty devastated. I knew that on top of everything else, I really couldn't handle deep depression as well. I worried that things would quickly spiral out of control (well, out of what little control there already was, anyway...). School was starting at this exact time, too, so I made the decision to focus on treating my endometriosis, treating my depression, and getting myself to school... and nothing else. This blog, and many of my fun or blog-related "goals" immediately took a backseat. I found a new obgyn. For the depression, I asked my primary to talk about medicine (I'd been on medicine for depression before, but at this point I had been off of all medicine and doing well for over a year). I also committed to reading certain kinds of books, to walking and driving through nature as much as possible, and to going to church. All things that I knew from experience would work to battle depression. I can't say the depression went away - in fact I am still fighting it. But because I knew what I was dealing with and I've been there before, I think I was able to stop it from getting to a point where I can't function at all. Thank God, truly. As for school, I got myself there whenever I wasn't too physically ill and I passed my classes. Those three things: school, endo, depression. That's what I've focused on for the last few months. It was all I had the energy to do, and it's why I haven't been writing here as much. Now that I've just had surgery and therefore need to take the semester off (no point wasting my money on class if I need to miss a month to recuperate), my plan is to get back into the habit of writing. I'm very much looking forward to it. 

~me when I think about blogging again~
So that was that. 

Another effect of that depo was that it (sorry for possible forthcoming tmi) thinned my uterine lining way too much, causing me to bleed for weeks at a time. You know what's not fun? Bleeding out of your vagina for 57 days straight. But yes, anyway. I saw several surgeons, all great but not willing/able to perform my surgery because it was too high risk. I was finally sent to a gynecologic oncologist and then to a reproductive endocrinologist, we came up with a plan, and finally I got some relief first in the form of estrogen and then just last week via major surgery. I'm sore as anything now, but I'm honestly just ecstatic about the thought of a future with no/less pain. 

(The surgery shed light on just how severe the endo was - it was everywhere and I needed stitches in my intestines and rectum and it was binding together my vagina and uterus and aren't ya glad you're reading all these details?! But hey, these kinds of posts are mostly for myself, so I'm not holding back. And despite the severity, there was something sort of miraculous about my case. I'm going to write a post on that really soon.)

              
So that was most of 2016. There were some really great things about the year, too, though. Like I said, I followed through with my plans and started school again! I did really, really well in my math classes and I didn't do horribly in physics, either. (That one was a bit harder since I've never taken physics and because I missed quite a few days for medical stuff - and yet, I still got a B-!) I also finally found a church (one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen, at that!) and went as often as I could. I can't describe how good it has been for me. In general I've just experienced and done things last year that, for reasons I still don't get, have made me just feel like a better me. So that's nice, right?

Now, as for those goals, let's see. They were: 

1. Make a two year plan; 
2. Get a job; 
3. Be less distracted; 
4. Watch more documentaries; 
5. Make a pilgrimage;
6. Exercise every single day; 
7. Go on a legit date; 
8. Finish the draft posts for the blog and,
9. Read.

How'd I make out? Well, I made a loose two year plan, but it was a bit thrown because of medical stuff. I'm counting that as a success, though, because I've got a general idea of things I'd like to do and I've been doing them! "Get a job!" oh, Char. My exact words in that post were, "The health stuff is improving. I need a job." If only you knew. I did work odd jobs, but I was so sick this year. I'm bummed about the lack of work, but I really can't even be mad at myself for it given everything I was dealing with. Prayers that this changes in 2017! I was definitely less distracted, and I'm actually a little proud of myself for how mindful I've become. I watched some documentaries, but I fell short of my goal. I think in 2017 I won't make it a resolution so much as just something I stay conscious of and make sure to do more often. And a pilgrimage! Technically I did make a pilgrimage! During the Holy Year of Mercy, Holy Doors were set up and if you were able to pass through one, it was a pilgrimage. Of course, when I made that goal, I intended it to be a pilgrimage that involved traveling more than an hour away, haha. But given all that happened, it worked out well for me. I am going to include making a pilgrimage as a resolution again this year. I most certainly did not exercise every day. However, I exercised as often as I could and I am in better shape now than I was this time last year. I lost a ton of weight... but then I put quite a few of those pounds back on after getting that shot of depo provera, dammit! Curse that shot!!! I did not go on a "legit" date... but I finally got my act together and joined a dating site and it hasn't been horrible. :) I finished quite a few drafts and I read 56 books, check and check. (Though my goal was 60 books... grrr.) 

Altogether I suppose it was a mixed bag, but I'm happy. Like I said, mid-year I switched gears and focused all of my energy on keeping my depression from getting too severe and treating my other health conditions, so I'm not going to be angry at myself for falling short on some of my less important goals. Priorities, people!  

    
Other fun/random things that I noticed about myself in 2016? Well, I've embraced some of these southern things...... you guys, I am now the owner of a pair of cowboy boots. Or cowgirl boots, I suppose. Le sigh. I also use the word "reckon," though I think that's also due to how often I read/watch Harry Potter. I finally learned to just love and embrace the color of my hair. Still working on the texture, though. I reconnected with my older brother and it's been great, but that can take up an entire post. 2016 was just a record year for me. 

So this year! This year. I'm unusually optimistic about 2017. I have a feeling it is going to be a lot of hard work, but after this year I feel like I can handle things, yo. If I can basically get stabbed in the liver and not cry (though I did whisper a somewhat loud "fuuuck" through clenched teeth), then I can overcome all of my crap and make good things happen, yes?

I've got a few goals in mind for the year, some of them major and some a bit random. 

1. I'm moving soon (as soon as the landlords stop procrastinating on fixing the bathroom). One of my goals for 2017 is to make my place somewhere I'm happy and comfortable, somewhere that's warm and welcoming to any visiting friends, too. 

2. Along those same lines of renewed independence... cook more. I've barely cooked at all the last year because I eat what's put in front of me. I'm grateful, of course, but I'm looking forward to planning my own meals and cooking from scratch and learning new recipes.

3. Be less fearful. Ah, this goes for a lot of things. Living on my own, worrying about health issues returning, etc. I don't think I'll ever be someone who can just not feel fear, but one of my goals is to overcome it and do things anyway.

4. Read 60 books. This year I only finished 56, falling four short of my goal. But I think I would have achieved the 60 had it not been for so many hospitalizations and stuff. I'll have more specific reading goals later, as per usual. 

5. This year I've really got to drink less soda. I've been great about drinking more water, but I drink a ton of Coke. My soda habits got about 500x worse when the depression hit, but I haven't tried hard enough to correct them. I'm thinking I'll go back to my old strategy of only drinking it on Sundays. 

6. Exercise often. I mean often. And continue losing weight! I got down to under 200lbs for the first time in years in 2016! The depo may have put some of that back on, but I fully intend on taking it back off and getting down to my ideal weight, anywhere between 160-180.

7. Learn to knit/crochet/sew. Pick one and learn it.

8. Learn to do my hair and makeup. I'm never going to be a makeup superstar because I just prefer not wearing a ton of it, but I would like to know the basics better. And my hair!! The only thing I know how to do with my hair at this point it putting some mousse in it and calling it a day. Surely I can learn a few more tricks. I always make goals that should make me feel better about my character, nothing wrong with making one that'll make me feel good about my looks, too. 

9. Pick six subjects and learn about them. Just for fun. My idea is to use two months per subject/topic to read about them, watch documentaries, take stuff out from the library, etc. So far my ideas are blue whales, the tundra, and progressive era activists. Ideas and suggestions welcome!

10. Get closer to God. Pray the rosary more, go to confession, go to daily mass more often, get to know the saints, go to adoration more often, read the Bible. You know, the good stuff. This is the most important of them all.

11. That pilgrimage!

12. Make friends in North Carolina, dang it!!!!!

I also told my friends I was going to be like Charlotte from Sex and the City, declaring that this is the year I get engaged. But we shall see haha. Might be a tad far-fetched. 

There are some broader plans and ideas I've got that don't quite qualify as "goals," like writing more. I'd like to write intentionally more often, too. Of course I use this blog for fun things like sorting characters into Hogwarts houses and coming up with nerdy baby names, but I'd also like to use this space to write more important stuff from here on out. There are things I really think I need to get out there (just for myself, not for the world to see or anything like that) and this is a built-in place to do that. I remember back in the day when I was actually pretty good at writing, and I feel as though I've lost that skill. I'd like to work on getting it back. This is a good place to start. Other plans may or may not include a dog companion and backyard chickens, but more on that later......

And finally, for this year's word and saint! 

2017's word: Heal

My body, yes. Big time. But also mind and soul. 

2017's saint: St. Gianna Beretta Molla

I plan on writing much more about this choice, as well as my saint friends of years past, like 2016's St. Joan of Arc and 2015's St. Anne. 

source
Until then, 

Happy New Year! 
xo Charlotte

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Best Books to Read With Your Closest Friends - Part 2


A year and a half ago I wrote the first post in this series. A year and a half. Oy. Well, here comes the second post, better late than never. Here's a continuation of the list of books that are particularly good for reading with friends. 


I've often praised Rubin here and on Filthy Casket. I can't help it. She is so, so wonderful and, as far as I'm concerned, the best author of her genre. The Happiness Project is a self-help/memoir and it offers so many insights on becoming happy and sustaining happiness. Rubin isn't one of those sappy authors nor is she one who only gives pretty New Age one-liners. She gives solid ideas and advice. She looks at what great thinkers have said about happiness throughout history and puts those theories to work. She herself forms a happiness project and documents it, so we get a real idea of how things work. It sets up a good system readers can follow, though it's flexible enough that it can be tweaked to meet each individual's needs. I think it's great to read with friends mostly because it'd be fun to do happiness projects together, and it'd be a way to stay accountable once you start the projects. I also think it'd be cool to go through the chapters and compare and contrast which elements work best for each friend.

On that same line of thought...

2. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

This book of Rubin's is specifically about habits. It's great to read with friends mostly for accountability purposes (assuming you're reading with forming/changing habits in mind).

3. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

I absolutely loved this book. It's about war, love, politics, and more. It's one of those books that, in my mind, should be just as revered as some of the classics. It's written as stories which ultimately link together in some way, which I kind of think is getting old (it just seems as though so many writers are turning to this style now). But this style, as well as Marra's writing, makes it a good choice to read with friends. It's also wonderful because some of the stories, particularly the first and the last in the book, can be interpreted in different ways. In her review, Liz mentioned that some of the stories left you wondering what really happened - she's totally right. It was one of the most interesting parts of Marra's book. In fact, after we both read it, Liz and I talked about our favorite stories and it turned out we interpreted things in completely different ways, which made it all the more fun to discuss. Books that do this are definitely good to read with friends.

4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ah, these books. They're wonderful and I don't understand how anyone could dislike them. They're terrific to read with friends because they're epic, they share great truths, and most importantly, after you all read them you can have a movie marathon with some pizza and wings.

5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This, I think, is my favorite read of 2016 so far. This is good to read alone, of course, but it's good to read with friends because, as most dystopians go, there are quite a few moments when you ask yourself what you would have done in the character's shoes. Oh, I've figured out the next step in reaching the prize (unimaginable money) - do I tell my friend how to complete the step, too? Oh, a corporation is threatening my life because they want the prize - where do I run? It was fun wondering what I'd do if I happened to be the protagonist, and I bet it'd be even more fun to talk about it with friends. Plus, it's a good outlet to vent frustrations with capitalism - a theme that's all too apparent in this book.

I don't know if many people like reading books with friends, but I know I do. I love when a friend and I can talk about all the awesome (or awful) things that happened in a book, or discuss the different ways we interpreted it, or in the case of Rubin's books, help each other with follow through and advice. There are a lot of advantages to reading with friends, and these are some of the books that offer the most opportunity for good fun. (It doesn't hurt that this is something you can do long-distance, too!)