2022 Reading Goal

I fell short of my reading goal this year and that’s ok. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not falling short. I’m missing it by about a fourth.

That’s still ok.

I began setting a Reading Goal for myself a few years ago when the Goodreads app asked if I wanted to. I had no idea how much I could read in a year so I just randomly chose 100 books.

I met or exceeded my goal a few times but this year was different. My interest in reading ebbed and flowed. I sometimes tore through two or three books quickly. Then would fall into a rut where I couldn’t finish anything.

Part of it has everything to do with me and my health. The brain fog has improved drastically but continues to be an occasional problem.

Part of the problem is that my go-to fiction category is historical fiction. A lot of the newly published titles have been formulaic and frankly, terrible. It’s like the publishing world caught on to the fact there’s money to be made in this genre and just started churning it out as quick as possible. It has become the Hallmark Christmas movie of the publishing world. Bleh.

Long story short, a lot of the historic fiction I attempted this year got tossed in the DNF pile – Did Not Finish for all of you who aren’t excited about reading.

My friend Johnna jokingly suggested I dive into the stack of vintage storybooks that I collect to hit my goal. While tempting, it isn’t really within the spirit of what I’m trying to accomplish.

This year will end at 75 books. That’s not shabby considering I work full time, travel and have other hobbies.

The 2023 goal will remain at 100. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, here are the ten books I enjoyed most. In random order:


Bambi: A Life In The Woods by Felix Salten – most people think that Bambi was created by Walt Disney. Instead, the classic cartoon fawn was created by an author and critic in Austria. Early children’s literature wasn’t what it is today and this 1926 is downright dark. It it’s also beautifully written and poetic in places.

A Christmas Memory by Richard Paul Evans – Evans is the king of heartwarming Christmas stories and this one is no exception. It’s a story of tragedy and survival, kindness and unlikely friendship. It’s also an easy heartwarming read.

Final Girls by Riley Sager – this author has taught me to enjoy a good thriller. His books usually keep you guessing and turning the page for more. I didn’t see this ending coming.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw – this is another one that kept me hooked despite the fact the title has nothing to do with the content. It involves a missing person and a reclusive community known as Pastoral where a man disappears while searching for that missing person. I was a little sad when it ended.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani – so far, I haven’t met a Trigiani book that I didn’t like. Her books focus on rich characters and beautiful settings. From Appalachian Virginia to New York City to old world Italy, every book is special. This one is no different, weaving stories of past and present that draw the reader in and inspiring thought.

As a side bar, listen to the Big Stone Gap audiobooks. This series was my gateway into the Trigiani universe and they’re still among my favorites.


The Deepest South Of All by Richard Grant – the author is an award winning journalist who moved to Natchez, Mississippi and wrote this amusing book about the life and characters of this town. This wins the award for one of the strangest reads of the year.

Dirt by Mary Marantz– I bought this book at Ollie’s for $3 and had low expectations. Turns out, it is one of the best pieces of contemporary Appalachian nonfiction that I have read. This memoir was written by a woman who grew up in a single wide house trailer in the mountains of rural West Virginia. Generations of her family were loggers but she escaped this harsh and dangerous lifestyle to attend Yale Law School. It is well done and I recommend it to any child of Appalachia.

Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh – this is a slender volume and an elegant meditation on solitude, relationships and contentment. She wrote it while on vacation at the sea and it is teeming with wisdom. And yes, she is that Lindbergh. The Lindbergh baby was her child.

The Growing Season by Sarah Frey – this was another standout. Sarah Frey grew up dirt poor, helping earn the family money as a young child selling produce to store managers. Today, her family company, Frey Farms, is one of the largest fresh produce growers and shippers in America. If you have bought a watermelon in this country, you likely have bought one of her melons. If you’re looking for a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” story, this one is extraordinary. I admire her work ethic, creativity and good old fashioned scrappiness.

The Face Of Appalachia by Tim Barnwell – this was a souvenir from Asheville, North Carolina. I bought this volume of local photography because the images are extraordinary and the book is signed. The photographer spent years convincing strangers to let him make their portraits in their natural environs. Think homes, storefronts and even chicken yards. These images all seem to be from the eighties and captured scenes and the faces of people who are likely almost all gone now.

But it’s not just images. He captured oral histories too. This guy’s work is the stuff of dreams, the kind of photography that I would love to practice. The author has published other books and I’m dying to see them all.

I feel pretty uninspired when looking back over this year’s reading. You wouldn’t believe the stack that I couldn’t finish including one in particular that was truly disappointing.

There’s a lot of good stuff in my To Be Read pile and I’m excited to get started again. What are you reading? I’m always up for a good recommendation!

Weather Whiplash

The high last Friday was below zero. Today it will be 62 degrees. That’s Ohio for you. If you don’t like the weather right now, look out for the whiplash you’ll get when it changes again.

It was warm enough yesterday I ditched my jacket and rolled down the windows while out and about. It was my last day of holiday bargain shopping before the start of my annual No Spend Challenge which begins today.

This is the last Friday of 2022 and the next to last day of the year. It feels like vacation is rapidly slipping through my fingers but I’m hoping to spend these last few days enjoying some quiet relaxation and nursing my weather whiplash.

I don’t know why I bother because it will change again soon!

Sunset At Concord Church

As usual, I proved again last night that driving in a straight line really isn’t my thing. Concord Church is located just outside Chillicothe, Ohio and is one of my favorite local churches. It’s lovely the way it’s set back from the road with a pretty gate, wrought iron fence and grove of trees. But it was all the more beautiful as the setting sun created a cotton candy sky. Unfortunately, there were cars in my rearview so I went up the road and turned around to head back for a better look.

There’s just something special about a house of worship beneath a beautiful sky. Isn’t it pretty?

The doors are still dressed up for the holiday making the scene even more charming.

Regulars here are likely tired of hearing this but I’ll say it again for everyone in the cheap seats. Always, always, always stop for the picture. Even if you have to turn around and go back. I have never regretted making the stop but have plenty of regrets about the times I kept going.

Life is too short for regrets. Just turn around and go back. It really is that easy.

A Key To Happiness

Anticipation is one of my personal keys to happiness. No matter what, it’s important to always have something to look forward to. Luckily, that something doesn’t have to be big.

Sure, it’s amazing having an exciting trip to anticipate. Yet, it’s just as effective to look forward to browsing at the library or settling in on the couch with some popcorn and a movie this weekend.

I suppose this is why I like to plan as much as I do. I looked forward to my trip to see the Franklin Park lights starting the minute we scheduled it. Today I’m looking forward to a much needed tune up at the chiropractor. I lead such a glamorous life!

It is much healthier to dwell on the good in life so I’m always looking for ways to be more satisfied with what I have and to be generally more happy.

I’m also anticipating the start of my No Spend Challenge. Officially, it begins on New Year’s Day but I’m thinking Friday would be a great kick off day.

I have enjoyed months of excess – holiday shopping, eating out, travel and fun have again defined this year. At least the good has tied with the bad – the thyroid issue – for top billing.

I crave the quiet of winter and the calm that comes from a No Spend Challenge. Consequently, I’m excited to get started.

When I do this, I focus more on self care and relaxation. I go to bed early and cook nourishing foods. I read more and cozy up with a soft blanket more often. I am kinder to myself during a No Spend Month than any other time of the year. That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything. Part of this month involves decluttering, getting organized, picking up old hobbies or even trying something new.

If I adventure out of the house, it will likely be a cold Saturday hike on the way to the grocery store or maybe a morning getting lost at the library. But don’t worry. Adventure season will be here in a few months and I’ll be back at it sooner than you think!

It is incredible how full and beautiful life can be when you focus on appreciating what’s before you at home rather than constantly running around seeking more.

Stay tuned. I’ll write another day about my own No Spend Challenge rules and my perspective on what it really means. I was kind of surprised that this will be my sixth year in a row and I’ll tell you about how it all has evolved since that first year.

It wasn’t always so easy and I have never before anticipated January so eagerly as I do now. Just a couple more days of commitments and vacation fun and I’ll get started!

Holiday Vacation And Self Care

I always hoard some Paid Time Off for the holidays. This has become an important part of my annual ritual and some sense of a self care routine.

Some years I spend a few days traveling while others keep me closer to home. This year, is not a travel year. My routine so far has been sleep in, shower and dress in clean pajamas before tackling the day. Even on Christmas Day I broke out some festive pajamas for our quiet celebration.

I did leave home yesterday to do some post holiday bargain shopping and put on my most pajama-like street clothes – a warm sweater and leggings.

Today will be cold again and I have zero interest in leaving. So I’ll dash to the bird feeders and then enjoy the view from my window (that’s the view pictured above) while I live my very best life in pjs again.

I do have plans this week- a chiropractor visit, lunch with a friend and a family dinner. I’m toying with the idea of heading to my favorite antique mall in Dayton or maybe to see a movie. I’m dying to see The Fablemans so maybe I’ll do that and hit another vendor mall closer to home.

Who knows? The point is that for once in my adult life, this vacation isn’t about exploration as much as it’s about rest and about feathering my nest.

My body has taken a lot of abuse this last year, seemingly from the inside out as my thyroid symptoms have persisted even as my blood work is improving. This is another conversation for a different day. Rest assured, I have big plans.

As much as I hate to, it’s time to start collecting all the little holiday touches around the house and freshen things up a bit. Scout is fascinated with artificial pine and I worry about the health and safety risks of having it out so it’s time to go. Not to mention, I enjoy redecorating using things I already own. It’s a fun challenge to make a room look new simply by rearranging the same stuff.

For today, it will be lots of water, de-Christmasing the house and tackling a closet and room that have been weighing heavily on my mind. I have this thing where I clean my house before vacation because I wouldn’t want to die while I’m away and leave my family with a dirty house. This dumb room needs attention for the very same reason.

Yes, I know I sound crazy. That’s part of my charm.

That’s the thing about self care. It isn’t always bubble baths and gratitude journaling. Sometimes it’s cleaning out that sock drawer that no longer closes or taking time to do meal prep to ease weeknight dinners.

For me, this week’s self care will include water and rest and maybe a few fun things. It’s also going to be getting the house in order. It won’t take that long if I just settle down and do it.

And I’m darn grateful that my collection of pajamas is so extensive that I have plenty to choose from this week!

One Way Or The Other

I recently found myself at a crossroads near Coalton, Ohio. The sky and the late December clouds were so spectacular I couldn’t help but snap a quick picture.

When faced with a choice – yes or no, left or right, make the picture or don’t – always choose yes, right and to grab the photo. The worst that will happen is you won’t like it.

I have regretted more pictures that I didn’t stop for than the ones I did.